Negative option marketing: What it is and your rights


26/04/2018 Negative option marketing is an illegal and unfair marketing practice, which the Consumer Protection Act recognises.

Unfortunately, many consumers don’t know what this is and usually end up taking responsibility because they didn’t pay attention.

What it is

In negative option marketing, your lack of action when presented with an offer is deemed to be an acceptance of the offer. Meaning you have to say no otherwise your silence will be interpreted as a ‘yes.’ Businesses that make use of this tactic essentially push you into an agreement of sorts unless you specifically decline the offer. This form of marketing is especially popular online.

How to tell if you are a victim

It can be a little hard to tell but usually, if you find yourself having to pay for items you don’t remember buying but remember being offered, it may be a case of negative option marketing. It does however get a lot easier for you to identify this type of marketing once you know what it is. Let’s say for instance you are shopping online for shoes and just as you are about to checkout, there is a little note with a pre-checked box to add an identical pair for half the price. You may not notice that the box is already ticked so you continue to place your order not realising your cart now has an extra item.

What you can do about it

It can be a little difficult to prove but if you believe you are a victim, you can raise a complaint with the relevant business. And remember, the practice in itself is illegal, so you shouldn’t accept the excuse that there was a note that told you you will be deemed to having accepted the deal or terms and conditions if you do nothing.

When you lodge your complaint, be clear about what you agreed to and what you were misled in agreeing to.

Negative option marketing also makes it very easy for businesses to sell products to people who don’t need them in the first place. It can thus constitute misselling, in which case you can go as far as to claim compensation for the sale or agreement.

If you enquire about a contract that you were pulled into as a result of negative option marketing, you will be happy to find that most businesses won’t make it too difficult for you to terminate the contract. But this isn’t always the case, sometimes you may be tricked into thinking you can’t exit the agreement until the term you ‘agreed’ to is over. It is important to note that an agreement that is a result of negative option marketing is not legal, so you can terminate it at any stage .

Negative option marketing is only one of a number of other underhanded marketing styles that the CPA protects you against. Remember, if it feels wrong, it most probably is, so always double-check everything you agree to and pay for, it may save you a lot of trouble.

Who do you have an issue with?

Raise it for free via Resolver

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We will never share your personal data with anyone without your permission - your case will go to the firm you’re complaining about and, if appropriate, to an ombudsman.

If you find something wrong with a company or our processes, tell us and we will put it right.

You can raise a complaint against Resolver via Resolver itself.

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