Vesa Hietanen(1*),

(1) Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Research, Innovative Digital Services of the Future, Finland European Cyber Crime and Fraud Investigators
(*) Corresponding Author


In Europe, 3.5 million consumers are estimated to have been affected by subscription traps over the past three years. This is more frequently the case now than ever before due to digital evolution which offers more opportunities to communicate and gather information from consumers. Subscription traps are offers on cheap products that lead to costly subscriptions for those who accept them. Usually, the consumer needs to pay with a debit or credit card to claim the offer. Although each free trial should be examined on a case-by-case basis, some practices are considered illegal upfront. Subscription traps include practices that are breaches of EU law or include grey zone practices that push the boundaries of what is legal or are currently untested by EU law.
This case study focuses on two research questions: 1) what circumstances creates subscription traps? and 2) how do we fight against them? A survey was conducted to professionals who had experience in subscription traps and cybercrime. The respondents (n=73) consisted of lawyers, prosecutors, police officers, risk specialists, payment card specialists, credit managers and product specialists from 14 countries. Furthermore, two individuals who did not participate in the survey were interviewed.
Research findings explain why the phenomenon of subscription traps has exploded exponentially in Europe. Furthermore, the study suggests that in the prevention of such traps the police should have better tools and methods for pre-trial investigations and charges should be made to criminals for customer manipulation and misrepresentation. Support, awareness, and education should be focused on the individuals whose digitalization skills are not on a par with the majority.
This case study concludes that legislative changes should be made. Legislation should include clear penalties based on legal practices through which the activities of the responsible parties behind these subscription traps can be shut down. The authorities and the private sector should consider forms of  cooperation in order to enhance the prevention of such crime. Additionally, it was found out that for a large number of authorities and financial representatives, the kind of crimeto which subscription traps belong remained unclear.


Cybercrime, subscription traps, digitalization, phishing; payments;legislation

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