MBS - News from the OFT

  helpinghand 12:56 29 Aug 2007

Having raised the MBS pop up issue with my MP, I finally heard back from his office to the following effect. I am told that the websites now clearly state that the user will be charged if there is no cancellation before the end of the month’s service. [How this relates to the 3-day free trials, I do not know!] They've also said that many of the web sites using MBS software originate overseas and do not come under UK jurisdiction. However, the Office of Fair Trading say that the onus is on the customer to cancel the service and to do so in writing. Apparently, the OFT do not consider the MBS practice as good business practice, but that it is not illegal.

  pj123 17:55 29 Aug 2007

MBS are not acting illegally.

But until someone can prove that the MBS software was installed on their computer without their knowledge nothing can be done.

I think the FE is still waiting for someone to provide that proof.

Regardless of what anyone says, someone, at sometime, must have logged on to these sites and tried the 3 day free trial.

It hasn't installed itself on any of my computers because I don't logon to those sort of sites.

  Forum Editor 18:30 29 Aug 2007

is not illegal isn't news - I published that information some time ago, after I had consulted with two legal advisers. Whether a web site is located in the UK or not isn't the point - there's nothing illegal on the two sites I've seen with the MBS billing system.

The core issue as far as the MBS system is concerned is the terms and conditions applying to the acceptance of a free trial membership, and whether or not there are any unfair terms in the contract which is entered into by people visiting the site in question and accepting a trial membership.

The OFT may study such terms and form opinions, but the OFT itself does not have the power to decide that a condition is unfair - only a court may do that. The OFT may go to a court and ask that a contract term be ruled unfair, and that its further use is prohibited.

As far as I know, that hasn't happened with MBS, and as far as I know there has as yet been no test of the MBS system in a court. Until or unless that happens - and it may not happen if there isn't any evidence to support a legal challenge - there's not much anyone can do, except ensure that he/she make careful checks before clicking on anything which offers free trial memberships of a subscription service. When surfing the web it's very much a case of keeping your eyes open and your brain engaged.

  helpinghand 10:16 30 Aug 2007

I'm aware of all the points you've raised, but this was a direct reply from the OFT to a query raised to my MP and as such is of interest, I think, to anyone who has an issue with MBS's methods. It is particularly interesting, I think, that the OFT have commented that they do not regard the MBS billing method as good business practice.

Since it is within the power of Trading Standards to take companies to court to 'test' terms and conditions, and since this is an issue which can potentially affect any internet user (given that MBS see this billing method as spreading to other, more inocuous, areas of the internet such as music downloads), it would be mightily helpful to see a little more proactvity on behalf of the consumer before the issue has reached a point that MBS can claim it to be 'mainstream'.

And I have never personally visited one of these sites, nor am I ever likely to do so. That isn't a reason not to be concerned.

  helpinghand 10:18 30 Aug 2007

I think we cannot state categorically that a system is not illegal until the grey areas have been tested in Court - all that can be said is that they are not believed to be illegal.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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