Statistics Highlight the Cost of the Subscription Economy

We live in the era of pay-as-you-go. The range of products and services you can access with a monthly subscription keeps getting longer. 

Years ago we paid for most things outright, when we wanted them. Today almost anything is available on a subscription basis – from software to snacks, and cars to coffee. 

The subscription culture has its benefits. Most of us get paid monthly so paying out on the same basis makes sense. It can also make it: 

  • Cheaper.
  • Easier to manage our cash.
  • Convenient for buying the same products over and over.

Not all subscriptions are paid monthly. Many brands let you choose between paying monthly or once for the entire year. The annual subscription works out cheaper than if you paid in twelve monthly instalments.

Price is the top reason why people in the UK choose to use subscription services (Statista, 2020).

Purchasing by subscription continues to grow in popularity

Eight out of ten UK households have at least one subscription (Whistl, 2022). The average household is signed up to seven different subscriptions (Barclaycard, 2020).

The number of retailers offering subscription services or products is growing steadily. The UK subscription box market alone is forecast to grow to £1.8 billion by 2025, up nearly 35% on 2020 (Royal Mail, 2021). Subscription boxes are just one of many different types of subscription service available.

The pandemic and lockdowns of 2020-2021 increased the popularity of subscriptions. By 2020 around half of UK retailers had developed a subscription service or product (Barclaycard, 2020).

Subscriptions can cause people to waste money

As our appetite for subscriptions grows, along with the list of those we’ve signed up for, so does the risk that we’re wasting money. 

The average person in the UK pays nearly £500 a year on subscriptions. Up to half of these subscriptions aren’t used – that’s £250 a year (Vision Express, 2023). Between us, we could be spending over £300 million on subscriptions that we’re getting no benefit from (Citizens Advice, 2022).

Many of these figures are averages. In reality, while many people spend less than £250 a year on unused subscriptions, there are just as many who are wasting more. 

Younger adults are more likely to be losing out through unused subscriptions. That’s because subscription services are much more popular with the under 40s. Over six out of ten people aged 18-24 sign up to subscription services, compared to less than two out of ten aged 45 or over (Royal Mail, 2021).

Consumers’ frustrations with subscription services

While we love the convenience of subscriptions, they can become a drain on our finances. 

Just one subscription at £9.99 a month adds up to over £100 in less than a year. It’s easy to see how someone can lose several hundred pounds over a few months, if they don’t stay firmly in control of what they’re signed up for.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose control of subscriptions, and there are many reasons for this.

Lack of transparency around signing up for a subscription

Brands make it very easy for us to sign up for their subscription service. They often entice us with an offer of a free trial or a bargain purchase. 

As many as one in four people find themselves paying for a subscription service they didn’t want, because they failed to cancel the free trial (Citizens Advice, 2022).

While signing up to a free or low-cost trial is easy, the method of cancellation is rarely presented so clearly. You may have to hunt through the small print in the terms and conditions. 

Almost all subscriptions are taken out online. Research has shown that UK consumers often fail to see important information about services presented online, which can lead to unexpected costs. (University of Nottingham, 2018)

Cancelling a subscription is often hard

Even when you’ve found out how to cancel a subscription, it’s rarely as easy as it was to sign up.

Some companies require you to find specific options inside your customer account, which can be hidden away in a host of other settings. Some avoid using words like ‘cancel’, which can make it hard to find these options.

You may be required to make a telephone call to cancel, or submit a request in writing to a specific address.

One in five people trying to cancel a subscription find it difficult to do so.  (Citizens Advice, 2022).

Tracking expiry dates can be difficult

If you want to cancel a subscription to avoid the next payment, it typically needs to be done by a certain date. If you miss the date, you’re caught paying for the next time period. 

If that’s a month it may be just a few pounds, but if it’s a year, that could well be over £100 if the annual subscription auto-renews.

Unfortunately, many of us find it hard to keep track of expiry dates. 

It’s calculated that half a billion pounds a year is spent on subscriptions that auto-renewed without people being aware. (Citizens Advice, 2022).

Many people take out a free trial of a subscription with the intention of cancelling as it reaches its end. Over half the people who do this then forget to actually cancel.  (Vision Express, 2023).

Losing track of expiry dates can also result in a subscription being disrupted, because we forget to renew. Some of us turn off the auto-renewal option on a subscription, to avoid being trapped into making payment. But if we want to continue using the service or product but forget to renew manually, we can find ourselves without something that we want.

ScribePay puts people back in control of their subscriptions

The rising popularity of subscription services shows no sign of stopping. Over three-quarters of people currently paying for subscription services plan to continue or increase their usage (Royal Mail, 2021).

However, four out of ten of us admit we don’t get full benefit from the subscriptions we pay. (Vision Express, 2023).

How can we stay in control of our growing number of subscriptions? They may be a convenient way to pay, but subscriptions can lead to us paying for services and products we don’t want.

The solution is ScribePay, the subscription management app that makes managing subscriptions (and cancelling them) effortless and stress-free. 

ScribePay gives you a way to pay for all your subscriptions in one place, putting you in control of monthly and annual charges. It also allows you to cancel subscriptions.

The average user of ScribePay premium saves £300 a year on unwanted subscriptions.

Help us save you hundreds of pounds every year in unwanted subscription payments

Download the ScribePay app on iOS or Android and join people from all over the UK that have taken control of their subscriptions.