The Consumer Ombudsman has announced a fresh focus on housing portal subscriptions.
The websites mostly offer initially free or discounted access to their listings, but after a period of time – anything from half a week to two months – the full rate is charged, and it is questionable how clearly this is advertised.
A question of clarity
The issue has been raised by the ombudsman as a common complaint by consumers entering into subscriptions for discounted or free trial periods. The subscription then automatically and significantly increases in price.
Whilst this in itself is not illegal, the Consumer Contracts Act stipulates that consumers must have clear and understandable information when entering into an agreement. If this is not provided beforehand, the agreement is not binding.
The various websites that offer online registration for access to housing listings have a two-month deadline to ensure that the information requirements are met.
Mad dash for digs
With an influx of new and returning students, this is a busy time of year for the housing market in Copenhagen. It can be incredibly difficult to find accommodation and it is not uncommon for students to be without a home – even after the beginning of the semester.
One portal aimed specifically at students offered a three-day trial for 9 kroner, which then automatically increases to 299 kroner per month – although in this case it was clearly stated.
“We have chosen to focus on housing portal subscription conditions right now, as there is extra pressure on the rental housing market shortly,” explained Christina Toftegaard Nielsen from the Consumer Ombudsman.
“Many students are on the verge of finding a place to live, and the housing portals are one of the places many seek housing.”