A travel agent says he’s nearly £3,000 out of pocket after taking a free trial for a business directory that puts suppliers in touch with hundreds of potential clients, which resulted in no interest.
George Kounnas, who owns Bush Hill Travel in Enfield, North London, signed up to a three-month trial with wedding directory website UKbride, which matches people who are getting married with suppliers such as photographers, florists and venues.
Although the three-month trial was free, George had to pay a £30 administration fee, which was taken off his credit card.
He says he was told the company would contact him before the end of the trial period to give him the option to carry on or cancel.
But this week, he noticed he’d been charged £1,999 plus VAT, which he was told was an advance payment for the next 12 months.
George told Travel Gossip: “UKbride rang me up three months ago, inviting me to join the directory, saying there were thousands of brides looking for suppliers.
“I was told it was a free trial, with a small admin free. I thought: ‘For the sake of £30, it’s got to be worth a punt’.
“I gave my credit card details and lots of leads came in but when I started contacting them, I got nowhere with any of the enquiries – not one reply.
“I’ve now had £2,500 coming out of my account.
“I was told I’d signed, by DocuSign, an agreement that said I needed to contact the company for a ‘stop code’ before they cancel. But when I signed up, I was assured that no more money would be taken out of my credit card.
“If I had got business from it, then I might have made my money back, or, if it was £300, I would have let it slide.
“The enquiries I was sent have not led to anything, and I’ve no intention of using the site going forward, yet I’ve just had to pay £2,500, with no warning that the money was about to be taken off my credit card.”
UKbride’s website said it attracts over one million visitors per year and has ‘more five-star reviews than our competitors combined’.
However, many suppliers have posted on third-party review sites, such as Google and Sitejabber, to say they’ve been unhappy with UKbride too. Comments relate to ‘no support’, difficulty in obtaining a ‘stop code’ in order to cancel, a complicated contract, ‘having to jump through hoops to cancel’ and feeling ‘stuck’ with the company despite receiving no business.
A Facebook group set up for unhappy suppliers to share their experiences has more than 850 members.
After George posted on Travel Gossip’s Facebook page on Wednesday, several other travel agents commented to say they were also unhappy after signing up to UKbride for a trial period.
Mel Robinson, owner of Mel’s Travel in Ferryhill, Co Durham, said: “I’ve had £2,398 taken from my account and don’t think I have a leg to stand on. I feel I was put under pressure on the phone to electronically sign the contract to authorise for the £30 admin fee to come out, but there was nothing mentioned about it auto-renewing and taking payment.
“However, on the contract it does state that we are authorising for future payments to be taken but they don’t give you any indication of this on the call. It’s very cleverly worded.”
Kent-based Beestravel Director Bianca Whalley said £2,398 has been taken from her account.
She said: “I contacted the company but didn’t get a reply from any of them. It’s a nightmare. I hope we can somehow get a solution to this although I’m not hopeful.”
A ‘furious’ Ian Robinson, Managing Director at Exclusive Travel Holidays in Manchester, said he’d had no replies to emails he’d sent the company after finding out £2,300 has been taken from his credit card.
George said: “It’s my fault for signing up, but to just take £2,500 with no warning, no email and nothing in advance to say how much is coming out, is plain wrong.
“I’d like to hear from other travel agents who’ve signed up to UKbride to see what we can do together.
“If I had done some research, I would have come across the reviews and stopped it. I’m never going to sign up to anything like this again.”
What UKbride says
Ukbride told Travel Gossip in a statement: “Whitespace Publishers [trading as UKbride] has been trading for over 20 years and remains committed to providing its clients and brides with a professional service via the UKbride platform.
“All bridal leads are genuine. The leads are our members who opted in to third party contact when they joined our site.
“Our unique direct marketing solution provides clients with a monthly list of brides-to-be in their chosen area. The information is captured at a time when they are actively seeking wedding services and have opted in to receive offers and information from third parties.”
A member of staff also told us there is no obligation on the supplier to buy a package and the sales team would never say they would call the supplier before the trial period ended to tell them it was about to come to an end.
She said UKbride sends out up to 100 leads per month, depending on the type of package the supplier has signed up to. Package offers change, but currently, the lead-in offer is the bronze package, at £299 + VAT for a year.
“The reason we offer the free trial is to see if UKbride is a good fit for your business. You need to opt out whilst you are on the free trial,” she said.
“We always tell the clients if you don’t wish to continue, you just opt out while on the trial – give us a call or drop us an email. We leave it in their hands.”
She added that, if suppliers don’t cancel ‘it rolls over’.
“Three months gives the clients the choice to come on board and test the waters.”
Another member of staff told Travel Gossip the company has thousands of happy suppliers, including hundreds of small companies that have renewed their partnership.
*This story was updated at 11.20am 22 September to include an official statement from UKbride