Facebook extortionate advertising costs set to bankrupt small family business

I am the manager of a small family run hydrotherapy pool in Worthing West Sussex. We offer hydrotherapy sessions to the elderly and disabled as well as swimming lessons for babies children and adults in our warm (35c) salt water pool. For a number of years we have been using Facebook to promote our services locally and we often paid to  boost certain ads e.g. upcoming swimming lessons with a limit of around £30 for a week of advertising. Up until the end of August this was working well, however during September the cost of the boosts escalated initially at around £100 for a boost and eventually by the end of September Meta (Facebook) had taken nearly £2500 from the business account for a small handful of Ads. We have no idea how this has happened and after several weeks of trying to speak with a human at Facebook we are none the wiser and have still not been able to speak to anyone or receive an explanation, never mind get any of the money back from Meta. We are now at the end of our tether as well as in financial ruin. The owner of the business (and account holder) has been unwell recently so had not checked the business account for a few weeks therefore had not noticed the huge amounts that were taken from the account. Could it be possible that Facebook have changed our settings maybe through an update to allow such huge amounts to be taken from our account? We are desperate for any advice or help to try and recoup some of this money or has anyone else experienced anything similar? 

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  • pramsay13
    pramsay13 Posts: 1,922
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    When you boost a Facebook post you set the amount so I'm not sure how this could have happened without you authorising it. 
  • MattMattMattUK
    MattMattMattUK Posts: 8,282
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    edited 18 October 2023 at 2:48PM
    Just a note that as this is a business service you do not have any consumer rights, so any dispute is somewhat less forgiving. As Pramsay says, all of those kind of services require the account older to set bid amounts, weekly limits etc. so unfortunately it is likely to be on the account holder. 

    The first thing to make sure is that you have turned off the advertising/boost/paid promotion now as otherwise you could still be accruing costs, cancelling the Direct Debit will not absolve you of fees and they will take other routes to recover funds. The next thing you need to do is to see why it has happened, I suspect you have gotten into an automated bidding war with someone else, potentially a large national operator and that has caused prices to spike based on the demand component of the pricing algorithm, together with not having a spend limit on the account. Unfortunately there is unlikely to be a route to get a refund for these fees so you will probably just need to take it on the chin as a learning experience. 
  • Hi,

    I’m sorry to hear of the issues you’ve been having. 

    As the above post, you should be setting the budget, and that is what authorised for the advertiser to spend. It’s more likely that a budget was set incorrectly - rather than £30/campaign it may be that the budget was set for a timeframe (eg £30 a day). You should be able to check the impact of the advertised post (the amount of views the post has had). 

    Ultimately this isn’t a consumer rights issue - as this would be considered a B2B contract. contacting Facebook via their forms/chat bots is the best way to contact them. There won’t be a number for you to call, and it’s more likely that Facebook will just deal with complaints online. 

    Check the settings. The settings should tell you how it was set up. It’s unlikely Facebook changed your settings without telling you. 
  • Grumpy_chap
    Grumpy_chap Posts: 14,445
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    Sophie189 said:
    I am the manager of a small family run hydrotherapy pool in Worthing West Sussex. We offer hydrotherapy sessions to the elderly and disabled as well as swimming lessons for babies children and adults in our warm (35c) salt water pool. For a number of years we have been using Facebook to promote our services locally and we often paid to  boost certain ads e.g. upcoming swimming lessons with a limit of around £30 for a week of advertising. Up until the end of August this was working well, however during September the cost of the boosts escalated initially at around £100 for a boost and eventually by the end of September Meta (Facebook) had taken nearly £2500 from the business account for a small handful of Ads. We have no idea how this has happened and after several weeks of trying to speak with a human at Facebook we are none the wiser and have still not been able to speak to anyone or receive an explanation, never mind get any of the money back from Meta. We are now at the end of our tether as well as in financial ruin. The owner of the business (and account holder) has been unwell recently so had not checked the business account for a few weeks therefore had not noticed the huge amounts that were taken from the account. Could it be possible that Facebook have changed our settings maybe through an update to allow such huge amounts to be taken from our account? We are desperate for any advice or help to try and recoup some of this money or has anyone else experienced anything similar? 
    First - stop any further ads.
    Second - try to find out what happened, but don't expect any refund.
    Third - review the business model.  If a £2,5k event is sufficient to bankrupt the business, the business was potentially not truly viable as it had insufficient resilience and at some point, some unexpected bill was bound to land and create the same outcome.  Can the business build a stronger resilience?
  • Jonboy_1984
    Jonboy_1984 Posts: 1,195
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    Are there downloadable invoices in the account for the payments, and that they relate to the expected adverts.

     Is it possible the account has been hijacked or the bank details used for an unrelated account? 
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