Fraud - or just a lack of transparency?

It pays to check you bank statement carefully!

On our last relevé I noticed a payment of 12€ to a company whose name was unfamiliar. I checked back on my computer accounts system, and there, in the previous month, was an identical item. Now on the first occasion I assumed that my wife had made an internet purchase and forgotten to tell me ( unusual – but not unknown) and after all, it was ‘only’ 12€. However, this time I checked with her – and she knew nothing about it. This was yesterday. I hate to cut a long story short, so the tale unfolds as follows …

I proceeded to trace the company that had taken the payment on our carte bancaire. This was not difficult – the bank statement identified them as Remise et, an organization neither of us had heard of. Next step – ‘google’ them, and what was the first site on the list of results (after their own page link)? – Arnaques (fraud). This led me to a long list of complaints about the practices of this company, dating from 2009. Most seemed to involve similar situations – a monthly abonnement of 12€ to achieve possible reductions on future purchases from ‘linked’ companies. In each case the complainant had little idea of why this payment had been made, or how they originated, save that they all seemed to follow a purchase made on the internet.

Using a ‘cut & paste’ example from one of the previous complainants, I sent an e-mail to the company’s Customer Service Department (CSD) for résiliation de contrat et demande de restitution. After 24 hours, there was no acknowledgement. This morning I telephoned the CSD – who have ‘no-one who speaks English’. I struggled on in French, before handing over to my linguistically more competent wife.

What transpires is that, when I recharged our mobile ‘phones with Virgin last October, I was offered a ‘10€ off your next purchase’ – a good reduction, since I renew every three months at 40€ a time. What was not evident was that this meant an abonnement of 12€ per month to Remise et Reductions. I could, it seems, only cancel this (unsolicited and unsigned) contract by logging on to my account with R & R using our password – which, of course, never having heard of them, I did not know! Never mind, I was asked for my e-mail address (given) and told to log on and follow the ‘forgotten password procedure’. End of telephone conversation; the attitude of their CSD was ‘it is your problem, not ours.

I followed the instructions – and was told that my password was (not a replacement but) one I have never used in connection with that e-mail address. Eventually, I did manage to cancel the abonnement – but not (yet) to obtain repayments. I have kept copies of all the cancellation documents, and will be contacting Virgin to complain to them.

I would be interested to learn if anyone else has experienced similar problems – particularly with this company. It seems to be, at best, a lack of transparency in terms of ‘offers’ on the part of Virgin (and others), and at worst fraud. In the meantime – check your bank statements! (Incidentally, one estimate is that to 'gain' from the 'deal', you would need to spend at least 240€ per month on-line with subscribing firms!)

Andy Shepherd

Not the same company or even in France but we had this in the UK with Trainline .com, asked if we were interested in a £10 reduction on our next trip, clicked yes and as it was very late went to bed and though nothing more about it. I noticed on our first statement, but was only £10 OH was away and forget to mention it when he came back. Next month I did and we then traced it back. We managed to cancel it easily, but no joy with refunds as we did not read everything carefully. It was all well hidden, took the £20 payment on the chin, but now we are far more careful and try not to do anything rally late at night!