A new study has revealed that the cost-of-living crisis is beginning to impact subscription services, with popular VPN provider Surfshark being just one of the apps identified as affected.
The study was conducted by Access Paysuite, a payment software provider, and it looked at 40 different subscription apps across a number of different sectors, including lifestyle, data, health and fitness.
In the case of Surfshark, it found that interest in cancelling a subscription to the new and highly affordable VPN service had increased by more than 68%.
How the study worked
To carry out this new research, Access PaySuite has pulled together Google search data from between January and June 2022 and compared it to stats from the same period last year.
For the VPN market overall, the study found that people were 27% more likely to consider deleting a VPN than was the case for the equivalent period twelve months earlier.
Of all those VPNs looked at, Surfshark was the provider most affected with a 69% increase in Google searches about cancelling a subscription to them.
The other two big VPNs that the study looked at, ExpressVPN and NordVPN also saw rises but at a much lower level.
For ExpressVPN, there was an 11% increase in searches on how to cancel, while for NordVPN, the number was 35%.
Surfshark was not the worst performing app overall, with fitness apps Strava and MyFitnessPal performing worse as did Apple TV.
This is not the only recent study to have reached the conclusion that people were stepping up the cancellation of subscription services. In April, Lloyds Bank revealed that it had seen its customers cancel no fewer than 1.2 million subscription payments since June 2021.
What does the data tell us?
Looking at the data purely through the prism of VPNs, this data is not quite as revealing as it may first appear.
Surfshark is a relatively new VPN that has built up a huge customer base in a very short time thanks to a combination of its quality service provisions and also a highly effective marketing campaign.
It does perhaps make sense that a newer VPN might shed customers faster in times of economic hardship as opposed to older VPN providers who have built up a more established reputation and a more loyal customer base.
What makes less sense is why cheaper VPNs like Surfshark and NordVPN are seeing a greater number of cancellation searches than a more expensive provider like ExpressVPN. If the motivation for cancelling was purely economic, it would make sense to see a bigger increase with more expensive providers.
Can we therefore deduce from this data that those VPNs that have a rate of searches for cancellation are not living up to their billing? This is a possibility although it seems highly unlikely that this is the sole reason, not least because the feedback we receive certainly does not tally with that.
What seems most likely is that it is a combination of factors, of which cost, and performance are just two of many. Unfortunately, this data does not delve any deeper to shed any more light on this.
Trends are difficult to pick out across other apps looked at too. Amazon Prime upped its price by £1 during the study period, yet cancellation searches dropped by 18%.
It is therefore difficult to read too much into the data given the inconsistent results it has produced.
The risks of a cost-of-living crisis
There is little doubt that if the cost-of-living crisis does kick in in the way that many experts are predicting this winter, it is highly likely that we will see a decline in VPN subscriptions as consumers are forced to reassess their priorities.
Sadly, such a move is likely to see the number of victims of cybercrime rise as well as an increase in online surveillance.
Perhaps even more worrying is the prospect of a number of VPN users switching from secure and effective premium VPNs to insecure and often dangerous free providers.
While we appreciate that heating homes and putting food on the table is everyone’s number one priority, we would at the same time urge readers to remember the very real risks that exist online and note that VPN subscriptions do only set users back the equivalent of a cup of coffee or two each month.
For the benefits that they bring, we would gently suggest that you would do better to miss out on a trip to Starbucks once a month and retain your subscription rather than put your online security and privacy in the hands of a free VPN service.
Ultimately, of course, the decision is yours. But while we do appreciate that a VPN subscription is not going to a top priority for everyone, given the extent that we use the internet and the variety of sensitive data we make available online, we think a VPN is something that should be pretty close to the top of their list for a great many people.