Music, video, gym… Is subscription life really a good deal?

RESEARCH – The offers are always more numerous, even for unusual services. But the accumulation of these commitments can weigh heavily on the budget.

They are everywhere in our lives. At our home (internet, energy…), our hobbies (music, video, cinema, press, video games, gym…) or our travels (train, bicycles and self-service scooters… ). Subscriptions are now popular with consumers.

A growing economic model, even gaining new sectors such as banking – BNP Paribas with its paying banking adviser -, supermarkets – Casino, Carrefour, Monoprix offer discounts for a paid subscription – or even cars – Fiat has just launched a non-binding subscription offer from 299 euros per month for an electric Fiat 500. Even the most unlikely: toothbrushes, wine or even pasta.

A frenzy fueled by the companies themselves“, notes Philippe Moati, co-founder of the ObSoCo (Observatory Society and Consumption), who sees great economic importance in it. †The subscription ensures a repeat of revenue and builds customer loyaltyexplains the economics professor at the University of Paris-Diderot. So a good thing for companies that have a kind of customer base”caughtOn the other hand, it is more difficult on the consumer side to estimate the profitability of this life under subscriptions.

It strongly depends on the use the consumer makes of his subscriptions“ emphasizes Cyril Brosset, journalist at the magazine What to choose? and author of a survey on the topic in 2020. In other words, it pays off course to pay for a gym membership if you go there three or four times a week. On the other hand, the question arises whether you drag yourself there once every six months. †It’s hard to have a universal discourse‘, says Philippe Moati in abundance.

Termination issues

Once this common sense observation is made, consumers should still be aware of the “trapsaround the subscriptions. In particular the marketing arguments of the brands. †To attract customers, companies emphasize the price effect. Consumers therefore have the impression that it costs them less to subscribe than to pay at the time of purchase.notes Elisabeth Tissier-Desbordes, Emeritus Professor of Marketing at ESCP Europe. But that is not always the case, judges judge Olivier Gayraud, lawyer at the consumer association CLCV, who takes the example of “shoe boxI invite people to calculate before subscribing‘ he launches. †And to ask yourself a simple question: do I really need it?» adds Elisabeth Tissier-Desbordes.

These are probably painless amounts for a segment of the population, but in the end it is a huge drain on the budget.

Olivier Gayraud, lawyer at the CLCV

Because, in addition to posing a problem of “hyperconsumption“, says Philippe Moati, subscriptions can be difficult to cancel. Cyril Brosset, author of a study on subscriptions for What to choose?, advises learning about the termination policy before even subscribing. †You need to know when and how to unsubscribe as it varies greatly depending on the service‘ the reporter suggested.

It’s also important”be aware of the subscriptions one hasBriefs Elisabeth Tissier-Desbordes. Because of course we often have small amounts that rarely exceed a few tens of euros per month: 8.99 euros per month for a Netflix subscription, 9.99 euros for Spotify, 5.99 euros for Amazon Prime, 29.95 euros for Fitness Park…”These are probably painless amounts for a segment of the population, but in the end it puts a huge strain on the budget.”, warns Olivier Gayraud, of the CLCV.

Particularly among modest households, in which the limited expenses”heavy», underlines Philippe Moati, of the ObSoCo. Indeed, their share of the budget is almost 70% among the poorest households, according to a study published in late 2021 by the site lesfurets.com and CSA Research. Expenses that Insee mentions”predefined» (residential, telecom, credit, tax, etc.), and which do not include subscriptions. Multiplying this can thus lead to:to restrict more essential items of expenditure and create a sense of impoverishment”, warns the economist, who nevertheless underlines that, well managed, “subscriptions can save money

Forgot subscriptions

The problem is that consumers tend to forget all the subscriptions they are associated with. Because as soon as the subscription is closed, the company automatically debits the customer’s bank account every month, without notifying them. A February 2020 study by the UFC-Que Choisir Consumption Observatory found that households greatly underestimate the number and cost of their subscriptions. While they think they have an average of 3.5, in reality they have 6 per household, for a real average of 159 euros per month (against an estimated 98 euros).

In 2016, an Elabe survey for SlimPay confirmed that a Frenchman had an average of 5.4 subscriptions. More than a third (38%) said they were subscribed to more than six subscriptions (of which 7% had more than 11 subscriptions). Figures likely to have risen since then, given the growth of the subscription economy. According to a Telecoming study published last year, the French market had nearly 50 million active subscriptions by 2021,”figure that will increase by 15% annually to 84 million by 2025Subscriptions to cultural digital offers are taking a big part of the market: French households have an average of 2.1 – the Netflix subscription is the most widespread – for an average monthly spend of 37 euros, according to a recent study by BearingPoint.

Consumers who need help to see more clearly in their subscriptions have access to applications such as Origame, Ideel or Papernest. These provide a place to centralize all subscriptions taken out, promising significant savings to users. For example, Origame, which has just completed its first fundraiser (of €600,000), claims to have enabled its 22,000 users to save more than €600,000 in two years. A convincing marketing argument, in a context of great concern by the French for their purchasing power.