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Case studies - When a free trial turned into a year's contract

Which Legal stepped in to help when a service offering to help a man set up his own website proved more costly than expected.

Jamie Whitehorn had a call from 1and1 Internet Limited, a web hosting company, in March 2012. The company, trading as www.1and1.co.uk, offered him a free trial of MyWebsite: calling it ‘everything you need to quickly create a personalised website’.

Jamie was told that he’d get an immediate email that would include details on how to cancel, followed by a second email just before the trial ended reminding him to cancel if he didn’t want to continue with the service that cost £20 a month. 

He heard nothing further from 1and1 until April 2012, when he got a bill for £71.96, which had been debited from his credit card. When Jamie emailed 1and1, it said a ‘valid sale’ had occurred, his free trial had ended and he was committed to a contract for a year. He then contacted our lawyers for advice.

Which? Legal advice

We advised that, as the contract was concluded over the phone, 1and1 had to provide Jamie with specific information – including his cancellation rights and how he could contact the company to exercise such rights. Its failure to do so was likely to mean he was entitled to cancel the contract and receive a refund of any money he’d paid.

Outcome

Jamie said the advice he received from Which? Legal gave him the confidence to pursue 1and1 and insist it cancelled the contract without penalty to him. In May 2012, 1and1 agreed to cancel the contract and refund Jamie’s money.

Legal points

Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, if you buy goods or services online, you have the right to certain information including a seven working day cooling-off period (or notice that no such cooling-off right applies).

If you’re not told about the cooling-off period by letter or email, your right to cancel is extended to a maximum of three months and seven working days from the day after the day the contract is concluded.