I once got a phone call offering me a six-month subscription to a publication. I took them up on the offer. When I got a renewal notice six months later, I ignored it because I didn’t want to continue the subscription.
Tip No. 1: You can no longer afford to ignore subscription notices for print or online services. This is especially true when you take advantage of a discount or free introductory offer.
I got a phone call asking about the bill. When I explained I didn’t want to renew, the caller told me that I still owed $2 for the time the publication had been delivered after the subscription expired. Not only that, but the phone rep refused to cancel unless I paid the $2.
“You mean that if I don’t pay for this product I don’t want,” I asked, “you’ll continuing delivering it?”
Yes, she said. If I didn’t want my subscription extended, it was up to me to cancel. Not paying the bill did not constitute a cancellation.
Welcome to the world of automatic renewal, which has become common for all kinds of products, from newspaper and magazine subscriptions to dating services, tax preparation and anti-virus software. Many of the magazine subscriptions offered on deal sites or for low prices come with automatic renewal.
There are times you want services to be automatically renewed. I have all my website hosting set for automatic renewal because I don’t want my sites to disappear if I am hit by a truck and unable to renew promptly.
But if you don’t keep an eye on your bank statements, it’s easy to end up paying for a second month or a second year of a service you don’t want. If you sign up for a free trial of a product you don’t want to continue, make sure you cancel before the trial period has ended.
I called the customer service department of the publication, which agreed to stop the subscription and cancel the bill.
After I got that $2 bill canceled, I called the dating service I wasn’t using that had been automatically renewed for $65 and canceled. Then I called a magazine I had subscribed to for $2 last year and had been renewed at $24.95 this year and canceled. All the companies agreed to give refunds, though several required me to wait on hold quite a while to reach the right department.
Tip No. 2: The moment you see you have paid for an automatic renewal you didn’t want, call and ask for a refund. Put your request in writing if necessary. Otherwise, you may receive the product forever.
California recently enacted a law, California Senate Bill No. 313, that states a consumer who “accepts and automatic renewal or continuous service offer online shall be allowed to terminate the service exclusively online. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to cancel those automatic renewals – but it does mean that you cannot be forced into the telephone tree and holding corral that some businesses require in order to cancel a subscription.
And in May, 2018, the Vermont legislature took it one step further: the state’s statute requires that the auto-renewal provision in a contract must be in boldface type, and the consumer is required to take two actions to accept the offer. The law, VT HB 593, goes into effect in July, 2019. It isn’t all-compassing, however. The law only applies to contracts of one year or more. Any contracts that are renewed on a cycle of less than one year (such as gaming or music subscriptions) do not fall under its guide.
Tip # 3 If you must sign an automatic renewal contract, read the fine print on how to cancel the subscription – even if you are not planning to cancel.
Then make an entry in your calendar a few days ahead of the renewal date, with the info on how to cancel. You may forget the renewal date, but the calendar will flag the date for you. Then you can decide if you want to continue the service – or cancel the subscription.
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