The streaming service that helps itself to your money without telling you first

There are many great things about the Deezer Elite service. But if you subscribe on an annual basis, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

What is Deezer Elite?

Deezer is a music streaming service similar to Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. It is available in several countries including the UK, but is based in France.

Deezer Elite is the company’s most premium streaming service, with all the same features as its standard Premium+ package but offering higher audio quality.The Elite service  upgrades the sound quality to the lossless FLAC high-definition format for most tracks, streaming tracks at up to 1,411kbps compared with 320kbps on Spotify Premium or Deezer Premium+.

For reasons best known to Deezer, this top-end service is only available to Sonos users, and surprisingly there is very little information available on the Deezer website other than some special instructions hidden away on a support page. You cannot subscribe to Deezer Elite using the Deezer website (you’d almost think it didn’t exist) – the only way to do so it through special links in your Sonos software.

How much does it cost?

Well this is where the fun starts. When I signed up a year ago, it was being advertised at £14.99 per month, so 50% more than Spotify Premium, and around £5/month cheaper than Tidal. However, if you were prepared to sign up for a year, and pay one lump sum payment, it would be all yours for £119.88/year, which works out as £9.99/month. So that means better sound quality for the same price as Spotify or indeed Deezer+. And who wouldn’t want that? Having taken advantage of the 30 day trial being offered, I took the plunge and paid on credit card.

So what’s the problem?

Quite simply, the problem is that after a year, without any warning at all – no emails, no notifications, nothing – Deezer decides that you would like to automatically renew your subscription and so it helps itself to a further year’s subscription fee.

Not only does it not warn you beforehand, Deezer doesn’t even bother to email you afterwards to tell you it has done this. There is an invoice available, but you’ll only find it if you happen to look at the relevant part of your Account Settings on the Deezer website – and that’s not a page you’ll happen to find yourself on very often.

That doesn’t sound fair. But I guess it was good value, so you’d probably want to renew anyway wouldn’t you?

Well maybe I would have done, but that needs to be my choice. Anyway, what I’ve told you so far is only half the problem.

OK then, so what’s worse than Deezer automatically taking a year’s subscription in one go?

Not only do Deezer not tell you that they are taking the money, but when they do, the subscription fee is double what they previously charged. Yes, that’s right, for an annual subscription it’s the best part of £240 instead of £120. In one hit. Without telling you. That’s the sort of money that can make you go overdrawn pretty quickly if you’re not expecting it.

And that’s the bit that is especially baffling. Because remember, Deezer don’t advertise the costs for Deezer Elite anywhere on their website. They barely even acknowledge its existence. So there is absolutely no way of knowing how much they intend to charge. The original subscription fee had been advertised as a special discounted rate, true enough, but the suggestion was that you were getting the discount because you were prepared to pay for a full year upfront.

Perhaps this was just an error?

Well, aren’t you charitable? It seems from Twitter that I am not the only one to suffer this treatment. I can only assume that Deezer are being greedy and are afraid that if they told you how much they were going to charge you, you simply wouldn’t pay, and that if they don’t tell you then just perhaps there’s a chance that you won’t notice how much you’re paying.

That’s shocking behaviour. Did you get your money back?

Well, to be fair, Deezer have responded very quickly and have promised to refund the money within the next few days (whilst of course downgrading my Deezer account to a Free account). So at least they got that part right.

But what kind of way is this to run a business? It is fundamentally dishonest and shoddy practice. It’s not what I would expect from a supposedly reputable business.

Is it so bad? Don’t other services act in a similar fashion?

It’s certainly true that Spotify have never notified me when taking my £9.99 per month for their Premium service. It would probably be better if they did. However… in my view there’s a big difference between regular monthly payments (which are smaller and regular, so you’re generally expecting them, and well aware that you’re paying a regular monthly fee) and an annual payment (a much more substantial sum, and you’re not that likely to remember that it’s about to come out of your account – especially when you weren’t aware that it was going to be a recurring payment).

So what do you think of Deezer now?

As you will have seen from my review, I generally liked the Deezer service and I was very seriously considering renewing for a year. But I cannot trust a company which takes that sort of subscription fee without any warning and by apparently making the price up as it goes along. And even worse, without even telling you that they’ve done it.

What do Deezer say about all this?

They’ve been asked on Twitter why they don’t notify people about this charge. In response, they have said that they are:

“…always updating Deezer and adding new features so hopefully we can implement this in future!”

That’s not a proper answer. I’ve asked Deezer to provide a better response. If I ever receive one, I’ll be happy to give them a right of reply here.

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