Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The pitfalls of auto-renewal of subscription services

Over the past several weeks I've had several services I've subscribed to in the past auto-renew. One is for Jing Pro, which I certainly would have renewed anyway. One is for Scientific American online, which I wouldn't have renewed - nothing against that periodical but I don't read it enough to justify the subscription. There are several others.

When you get a friend request in Facebook or LinkedIn, you get a click through in the email to approve the request. Why doesn't that happen with renewals? Given that the nation has had a recent history of excessive credit card debt, the practice as it's done is invidious and really should change. Too much of the burden is put on the buyer to cancel. The renewal is the presumed default. In none of these cases do I recall signing up for auto-renewal.

A couple of years ago my account to ESPN Insider got canceled because we switched our family credit card. Perhaps that needs to become a regular practice....as a defensive measure.

I also have to say that I hate calling customer service and invariably being put on hold. This current practice actually gives the sellers incentive to reduce their customer service. That makes no sense to me.

The kick with the new Congress is less regulation, not more. So I'm not sanguine about anything being done on the following recommendation, but I will offer it up nonetheless. There should be a minimal requirement to make renewal explicitly voluntary on the part of the customer. It seems to me that should be the law.

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