Automatic Renewal Billing a Consumer Ripoff!

Many subscriptions, online services and other services have an auto billing renewal program which is anti consumer. These should be state and federal laws to prohibt these actions. Basically the company who has your account automatically renews additional tyears every time the contract is up. This was they can auto bill your credit card. In some cases they can even bill a closed credit card! For example Yahoo Greeting has a online greeting card service. This service costs $13.99 per year. When the one year term is up you get an email telling you that to cancel this service you must call an 800 number. I called and was on hold for 15 minutes. This tactic is so you give us and dont cancel the service. It can run for years. If you delete the email telling you it will auto renew, it will continue to renew unless you see the bill on your credit card statement and have it disputed. If you cna sign up with Yahoo Greetings online why can’t you cancel online? There can only be one reason. To make it harder for you to cancel. Imagine if at sign up you had to call and be on hold for 15 minutes. Nobody would sign up. Magazine companies do these auto renewals all the time. I try not to have my credit card on file directly with magazine companies and generally try to avoid these auto renewals if at all possible. Sometimes it is unavoidable. Watch those credit card statements and dispute any unknown charges on your credit card statements. I can only feel that these policies are against best interest of the consumer. I will probably followup this article in the future with updates

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43 Comments on “Automatic Renewal Billing a Consumer Ripoff!”

  1. John Says:

    I just emailed my state legislators about this very thing. I signed up for Match.com and opted for a one month membership at $35 versus $16 per month if you opt for 6 months. It was because I wanted to try it before buying a longer term. Well, one month went by and I chose to not renew (so I thought). Today I see a charge on my credit card and I go back and see that they now have charged me 3 times. The first was when I signed up, the second occurred at the end of my first month and I thought it was the original charge going through, forgetting that I had already paid. So, I spent time searching and searching for a way to contact them. I eventually used a form to send them a note that I didn’t want auto-renew and….well, no refunds according to them. I went back in under an assumed name to see how the auto-renewal is disclosed, and needless to say, it isn’t very prominent.

    • J Says:

      The same thing happend to me . expect i was charged 6 times 35 each . I have contacted FCT. The outo- renwal thing is absolute fraud. I i chose the highest fee and want to try one month . how crazy one can be to pay for six month the highest price the can offere

  2. robertw477 Says:

    You mention some very good points. These companies try to make signing up easy and cancelling harder. In spreaking to the various reps on the phone, they know what is going on. If you sign up for a service online, you should be abe to cancel that service the same way. These companies let you signup online so b making you call and wait on hold, voice mail hell etc you give up and continue to get billed for a product or service that you dont wan’t.

    Robert Weisberg

  3. Karen Matz Says:

    We need an automatic contract renewal law for the consumer here in Florida. Every company should have to give a consumer notice if they are going to automatically renew their contract. Autmatically renewing a contract without notification should be illegal and unenforcable in every state.
    I signed up for a 2 year contract with Safe Touch Security here in Jacksonville FL and they will not let me out of the contract because they automatically renewed me without telling me or notifying me. This is a dishonest and unfair business practice to the consumer.

    • ryan shaffer Says:

      a couple of years ago you menitoned an issue with a security company automatically renewing its contract.

      what ever happened with that if you don’t mind me asking? i currerntly am going through that with safe home securities.

      thanks

      ryan

  4. robertw477 Says:

    I live in florida and agree that every state should have laws about self renewing contracts. The security alarm industry has this as a means to keep you paying a higher price for the alarm monitoring which is a huge profit and where most of the companies make their money.

  5. Richard X Says:

    Someone needs to consider whether the practice already is unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds (which exists in similar forms in every state). This requires that any contract that can’t be performed in one year be in writing and signed by the parties. Doesn’t an automatic renewal de facto require performance beyond one year?

    I had this problem with a travel discount .com. They reversed the charges, but I reminded them of the Statute of Frauds.


  6. […] up and the start of the month and they would probably cancel everything. This should be illegal. Previously I wrote about self renewing contracts. Health clubs are notorious for this practice. This is something that needs to be on the state […]

  7. lollipop77 Says:

    To John,

    Match.com did the same thing to me and I found their customer service number, here it is if anyone is interested 1.800.926.2824.

    I tried originally using the cancellation prompt, but that prompt only lead to dead silence, which gave the impression that I’d been hung up on. I called back and this time went through the generally questions prompt, I’d even go through the subscription prompt because more than likely there is only one room which houses reps and they can handle all types of calls, the prompts are just used for screening.

    I informed the rep that I wanted my money because I only signed up for a month’s subscription. She tried to inform me of what was in the contract, and I told her I thought that the contract was very deceptive. Most people don’t have time to follow up on their subscriptions and if a person has signed up for only a certain amount of time then the contract should be that straightforward. I said automatic renewal should be considered fraud.

    They gave me my money back and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you if you start talking fraud.

  8. Karen Matz Says:

    I have a contract with an alarm company that has automatically renewed my contract. They are not letting me out of the contract. Can any one out there advise me as to what recourse I might have?

    Karen Matz

  9. robert weisberg Says:

    Alarm companies do this all the time. The monitoring of the alarm is where all the money is made. The contacts usually state that you need to cancel them in writing prior to their auto renewal. Hopefully it is only a one year renew. Maybe if they defaulted to you on another part of the contract you could take them to small claims. Or could could file a number of formal complaints. Maybe they will let you out to get rid of you.

    Rob

  10. Karen Matz Says:

    I would like to start a group of consumers in Florida who want stronger laws protecting us against company’s who do this. Karen 904-220-5283

  11. Karen Matz Says:

    IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN ME IN THE FIGHT FOR STRONGER CONSUMER LAWS, PLEASE JOIN ME, 904-220-5283

  12. tv bracket Says:

    actually, for as long as they give an option, so that customers can choose whether they want to use auto renewal feature or not, there should not be a trouble, but you are correct, that such option should be under the law for consumers to be even more well protected.

  13. mika Says:

    A MUST-READ FOR ANYONE SCREWED OVER BY MATCH.COM

    I just experienced what many of you have shared: the highly anti-consumer “auto-renewal” feature that supposedly appears in match.com’s contract. Following lollipop’s advice to John, I, too, did the following:

    -Called the following number
    1.800.926.2824

    -Selected 1 for general inquiries, NOT the cancellation prompt, or anything related to complaints

    -Got through to Kelly, a rep who politely stated that the auto-renewal policy was part of the contract to which I agreed

    -Made Kelly aware that I am a legal assistant for a major local firm and after discussing the “policy” with my lawyer friends, was urged to take legal action over fraud

    – She reiterated the agreeed-upon policy but did say that she would speak to her supervisor about my demand for a refund

    – I also added that I want something in writing to assure me that I will not be billed in the future after canceling my account

    – Kelly returned and said that she would refund my auto-renewal fee in 72 hours but could not provide a written assurance. I could write to the following address and/or email and try there:

    match.com
    customer care
    po 45272
    dallas, texas
    75225

    executiveteam@match.com

    So…I’m not in the clear, yet. I will update to let you know if I see the auto-renewal fee refunded on my VISA statement. The point is that if this works, we have more power than we think. We can get our money back by not backing down and do our best to inform others to stay the hell away from this scam.

    Perhaps, we can also suggest places for lonely souls to connect online without paying a cent.

  14. mika Says:

    (Follow up to previous post) Fought match.com and won.
    They refunded the renewal fee the very same day. Dropping the word “fraud” and threatening to expose their anti-consumer practices seemed to work. Using a VERY stern tone and demanding to speak to the supervisor if the rep couldn’t do anything didn’t hurt either.

    Remember, no matter what crap they feed you about wanting to provide convenience, putting the customer’s interests first, don’t be fooled into thinking they care in the least. These are manipulative, unfeeling vultures of human desperation. They don’t expect you to stand up to them.

    Best of luck to you all.

  15. sarah maddox Says:

    I emailed their legal department and was able to get a refund with roughly the following email:

    I opened an account with match.com as x. The website said my account would expire x and indicated no further action was necessary to make this happen. A deduction for services incurred x seems fraudulent given there was no intention or understanding I authorized renewal. Further, the subscription information accessible on the website led me to believe that my subscription would be terminated April 28th, and thus no further action was required to avoid further costs. I request the immediate refund of the x back to my account.

  16. Terumi K Says:

    Yahoo Music has the same automatic renewal problem. Without notice, they charged the fee on my credit card. I have sent emalils to solve this issue, but they really have trickly tactics to disguise consmers. They call it “Customer Care Department” but I was treated disrespectfully when I called them. The final answer from them; they can not refund the fee. They said that they sent a notice by email, but there is no trace of an email about renewal. It’s a great rip off business with a big corporation name.

  17. IHATEAPS Says:

    I am currently fighting with an alarm monitoring company regarding their automatic renewal terms of 2 years! This icannot possibly be legal!

  18. robertw477 Says:

    Many of these alarm contract self renew which most consumers are unaware of. It is a scam to make sure you have to buy monitoring service from them. the real money is not the alarm systems, its the monitoring charges.

  19. kj28 Says:

    I just had the same thing happen to me with match.com. I spoke to a customer service rep and she said the best she could do it refund a portion of the charge. I asked her for a contact in their legal dept. She said they do not have a legal dept and gave me an email address.

    Two things need to change:

    1. There should be an option upon signing up that lets the consumer choose “auto” pay on or off.
    2. Match.com should send out a simple email notice letting the consumer know their subscription is about to expire and will be AUTOMATICALLY billed on XX-XX-XXXX.

    I’m going to check with FTC and find out about automatic renewel. Seems like total fraud!

  20. MeToo Says:

    The alarm company got me today. I emailed Dave Ramsey to see what he would do. Amazingly, I came home to find these two items in my mailbox:

    1) A credit card company – whom I canceled a few years ago, happened to send me my brand new ‘replacement’ card today with a totally new number on it!!!

    2) (This is the kicker) A finance company with whom I have a loan that is paying down aggressively, sent a letter stating a new ‘due date’ of 20 days further than it currently is (now is on the 20th, they are changing it to the 10th of the following month, and it will stay the 10th for the remainder of the loan payout). The letter clearly states: a) moving the date will give customers a better service, and b) by paying on the later date (the 10th of the following month) will accrue more interest charges to compound. So it looks like they are just giving consumers a legal ‘late payment’ date without coming out and saying that’s what it is.

    Will the underhanded, unethical folks running these scams ever figure out it isn’t worth this much effort but for just so long? To underestimate the intelligence of their customers, past and present, is amazing me more every day.

  21. RippedOffnMad Says:

    Same thing happened to me with Meridian Business Centers. They auto renewed a 12 month service without informing me or even letting me know the service was up for renewal. Now when I try to cancel because of economic difficulties I find out I am 2 months into a new contract and have to pay off 10 months of service to get out of it.

    The irony is I had a great experience with them up until then and would have likely done business with them again in the future when things improved. They could have had a lifetime customer. Instead they rip me off and burn a bridge.

    What a wasted opportunity, they could have kept me on the mailing list, kept me themselves in my mind and when I was looking for that service again I would have gone straight to them.

    It’s a wonder these kinds of places can even stay in business.

  22. Sam Says:

    Any progess on having florida laws ?
    Any body has consulted with Attorney or Consumer affair dept ? Let me know, i am also victim of Auto-Renewal. Security Network , alarm company in florida, renewd my contract for THREE years without my knowledge about 7 months back ? Now i can cancel, they are asking full amount or another victim as replacement.
    This is unethical and unfair business practices.

    Yes Karen >>> >>>>> We need an automatic contract renewal law for the consumer here in Florida. Every company should have to give a consumer notice if they are going to automatically renew their contract. Autmatically renewing a contract without notification should be illegal and unenforcable in every state.

  23. Ryan Says:

    Yes i am curious myself about having the law in florida.

    i too currently have having an issue with safe home security. the real punch in the balls here is i told them in the second year of the contract i wanted to cancel when it was over (i had thought originally it was a two year but was told at that time it was a 3 year). no notice or anything stating towards the end of the 3rd year i needed to put it in writing 60 days before the end of the contract.

    there seems to be a few laws that kinda protect but it seems there is not enough.

    you can go under coersion and/or fraud. most of these (myself included) was not given full disclosure of the contract (actually they even took it with them for the office something i mentioned to their service reps but no one ever bothered to get me another copy of it). some things was not disclosed, they sold frauduatly items they knew would not work for me givin i had no land line) and as everyone is sure of, if i waited to look over and didn’t sign right then it would cost me a grand more the next day. thats signing under duress which is against the laws under coersion and fraud.

    there is also something called bill HB 15 which states

    HB 15 requires clear and conspicuous disclosure of automatic renewal provisions in service contracts if the provision renews a contract for more than one month and if the provision causes the contract to be in effect more than 6 months after the contract was initiated. If the length of the service contract is 12 months or more, and if the contract automatically renews for a period of more than 1 month, the provider must notify the consumer, in a clear and conspicuous manner, of the renewal and how to cancel the renewal “no less than 30 days and no more than 60 days before” the deadline provided in the service contract.

    i hope thats law though.

    i’ll be contacting the owner of the company tomorrow to see what he will do.

    i’ve already contacted the florida representative and a local lawyer, lets hope they let me out of the contract and there is no issue for me, even if they do i hope this gets done because it should be illegal to autorenew otherwise.

  24. Paul Butlin Says:

    Watch out for “Heart Internet Services”

    They have just taken money from my account without my consent, even thou I am no longer with them.
    They auto renew URL’s that already have set time limits to expire.
    At the moment I am taking action via my banks fraud department against them.
    Auto renewing products & automatically taking funds is the kind of business ethics of dodgy porn sites & credit card scams.
    I am totally disgusted with them!

  25. Joy Says:

    Look out for LunarPages / Lunar Pages – they’re a hosting company and domain registrar (repurchaser) and they practice what I would consider to be fraudulent business practices, auto-renewing without the customer’s consent. They say “read the TOS” yes, read them carefully, because that’s the only place you’ll see that they control renewal. This is especially with regard to domain names, where there is no choice at the user console as to whether you auto renew or not – there’s no icon to click. They use “GOTCHA!” tactics and stick by them. I think this is illegal, however, so am complaining with the FTC, FCC, California Consumer Agency, and my credit card company.

  26. Doug Cashell Says:

    Picnik has a dubious renewal scam. They hide on their website a hard to find autorenewal button that is automatically checked.

    The email they send monthly partials notifies that it will autorenew each month.

    Poor ethics.

  27. Alexandru-Cezar TOMA Says:

    I’m in the same situation, but I just sent an e-mail to Yahoo asking to cancel the premium account. It was really awkward for me especialyy in Romania is prohibited. I never signed a contract with Yahoo as I remember. I have payed for one year so? Where is the problem? They just informed me about the auto-renewal not ASKED me if I still want those services and willing to pay for. I hate this kind of marketing – MLM also. Let’s make an online petition for this.

  28. Lagirlsinger Says:

    Why can’t they just remind you that your account is experiing and give you the CHOICE to renew or not? I’m so sick of these websites. It happened to me on care.com and on ladders.com. A lot of the job boards have automatic renewals. Way to rip-off the unemployed. The consumer protection groups really need to address this and make it illegal. All those HSN sellers do the same thing with skin and haircare. I think they banned the practice at gym memberships because they were using checking accounts. Limewire tried to charge an old card and I got a $35.00 fee. This needs to stop.

  29. Water Cooler Says:

    you can really learn a lot from health clubs specially if there are doctors who are also members on the health club -;`

  30. Mr. Drake Says:

    Intuit did this to me two years in a row. In purchasing the software in 2010 I very carefully selected the option to NOT enroll in the automatic renewal program. Well, in early November 2010 I got slammed with charges for $102.85 for their home and business product.

    I called them a few days later to tell them of this error (once AGAIN) and they said they would “process” my refund. Before finishing up my lengthy conversation with them the agent told me that I had to call back after 48 hours. I told them that NO CUSTOMER SHOULD EVER HAVE TO CALL BACK MULTIPLE TIMES TO GET A REFUND. This is rediculous.

    After waiting almost 2 months now – NO REFUND. I called them again this morning. They said that they hadn’t processed it yet. If it is not a scam then it is certainly very unscrupulous business practices. First charge them when they specifically don’t want it, put them through the wringer to request a refund, and then hold onto their money as long as possible when they request a refund. This sounds like a lawsuit to me.

    TurboTax is not any better than other products out there. I thought I would try it for a couple years. After this unfortunate experience in going back to TaxCut.

    • robertw477 Says:

      They are pretty sneaky. I know it. They figure that very few customers will persist and put up such a fight. Overall they can make so money with people that dont call. If you make alot of noise they will claim it is an oversight on their part.

  31. Sean Hayes Says:

    Shutterstock is a company that does this. Careful.

  32. haililiu Says:

    You are right. Those dirty tricks are invented by blood suckers! By law, to renew a contract, whatever service it is, we should require the two parties to show up and re-sign it. They should not automatically bill a customer just because a check mark they entered for customer long time ago!

  33. phoenix@rmailbox.info Says:

    I complained to the Federal Trade Commission and the BBB regarding the buried fine print in the ever elaborate and complex contracts being created not only for the internet, but for companies in general.

    Case in Point:
    I went into a store made purchases and placed items on lay-away.
    I was informed that I had to make my payments on time or I could loose my payments and my items. Nothing more was said.

    Several weeks later I see where they have set themselves up an account to be paid automatically out of credit card and checking account.

    I cannot find where I gave authorization for this…and nothing to the best of my knowledge had ever been disclosed to me regarding such.

    The loose and easy way companies have for obligating purchasers and accessing private credit information is appalling and growing out of the consumers control. This has got to stop.

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, the only way to get to regulate the industry and set up restrictions and laws would be get signatures Nation Wide from consumers and submit them along with a complaint to the US Attorney Generals Office.

  34. OutlawTheCrooks! Says:

    Add Comcast (& ATT) to the list, who adds sneaky contract auto renewals in their “Business Class” internet or TV or phone service. People are screaming about these crooks as well.

    That new FLA auto renew law is pretty lame & naturally EXCLUDES you if you signed up for service AS A BUSINESS. So BEWARE BEWARE BEWARE!

    As a rule, never waste time with low level reps. Find the CEO of any company, or their General Counsel (lawyers) & send paper mail to them (cc your State AG Office, your State/City/County Consumer Protection Office, the FTC, FCC, etc. etc.) include references to your exact State & Federal Statutes in your letter re either auto renewals (if your State has such laws), or definitely the Statutes re NON-DISCLOSURE, FRAUD, UNFAIR, & DECEPTIVE business acts, methods, &/or practices, which all States have laws re that. Send letters CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED, DELIVER TO ADDRESSEE ONLY (if you put exact names of CEOs, their attorneys, etc. on the envelope & letter).

    A letter on LEGAL LETTERHEAD is a cincher if you can (a) hire an attorney to send the letter for you; (b) have any lawyer friends who you pay $1 as a “retainer” but you do the homework & write the letter but have them merely send it on their legal letterhead.

    Next, start paying attention to the last names of the owners & big wigs behind all companies, online & off, & in govt., banking, etc., & you’ll start to see a pattern, if you get my drift, of the Bolshevik/Marxist/Communist infiltration & takeover of America, many many decades, near a century in the making. The goal is not only to debase the “spoiled white middle class Americans,” but to rob them blind in every conceivable way, to debauch morality, sensitivities, manners, turn right & wrong upside down, confuse the genders, destroy the family, the children; dumb down the educational systems; corrupt politics & politicians; pollute & take over the food supply; buy up, monopolize & then propagandize the masses via the media, newspapers, magazines, books, Hollywood, TV, celeb insanity, music, art, porn, you name it & they have premeditatedly polluted it all on purpose. The war against Christianity is also their invention. Don’t be fooled! Churches & Seminaries & Bible Colleges have also been infiltrated, just like every other societal institution. The goal of The Plan is to destroy America from the inside out, mind, body, spirit, at every level. When they finish using America as their War Machine to force New World Order globalization on other “non-agreeable” smaller countries, they will let America crash & burn like the Phoenix so it can rise from the ashes, with them in charge out in the open.

    Remember this one word: PROTOCOLS. Find it online, read it, 84 pages, several hundred years in the making, generational. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s fake. Look around. The evidence is clear: The Plan is working.

    This post & comments, all excellent btw, is just a small sampling of the widespread corruption & evil encompassing the world but should give everyone a taste of the bigger picture.

    “Let God be found true though every man a liar.” — Scripture/Bible

    Hang in there people!

  35. MM Says:

    Add Urban Interns to the list. The auto renew is in fine print and you have to be a lawyer to read it. Its a shame that they are so desperate that they have to resort to stealing money in this “legal” fashion.

  36. George Burns Says:

    Match.com’s automatic membership renewal (with its automatic withdrawal provision) is an obvious attempt to siphon off underserved fees for unwanted services. I have read a number of complaints concerning Match.com’s automatic withdrawal policy, but have never seen this killer solution.

    You want to take advantage of Match.com’s service, but you don’t want Match.com unilaterally withdrawing funds from your credit card or bank account. Here’s how you stop Match.com in its tracks:

    First, as soon as you purchase your membership, you immediately cancel. Match. com’s policy says you get no refund, but your membership remains active for the duration of your initial membership period. If you cancel immediately, you shouldn’t have to worry about missing a cancellation date which might not occur for six months. In theory, you have outsmarted Match.com.

    But here’s the “killer” nobody has mentioned.

    Second, go to your bank or credit card company. Revoke Match.com’s right to make any future withdrawals from you account. Financial institutions sometimes call this a “revocation of authority”. Once Match.com’s authority to make a withdrawal from your account has been revoked, Match.com can’t touch your account.

    Third, notify Match.com that its automatic withdrawal authority has been revoked. You want to notify Match.com of this revocation because if Match.com does try to make an automatic withdrawal and your bank or credit card company charges you a fee for denying Match.com’s withdrawal request, then Match.com, being on notice of revocation, becomes obligated to pay any fee charged by your bank for denying its request for an unauthorized automatic withdrawal.

    Complicated and involved? A little bit. But given Match.com’s determination to siphon money off unsuspecting consumers, you would be wise to take these steps to protect yourself and avoid Match.com’s predatory business practices. Furthermore, if a large number of people begin revocating Match.com’s automatic withdrawal authority, maybe Match.com will change its policies.


  37. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought
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    you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

  38. robertw477 Says:

    I heard a comment from a CEO recently mentioning that his goal was to get your credit card number. Many of these web offers require a phone call to cancel rather than cancelling online. Many people will not call or wait many months to cancel. The goal is to get that credit card number. Siruis/XM radio are particularly problematic as they will charge you full rates and auto renew customers. These full rates may be 2-3 times that the special offer was in the prior month before expiration.


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