Today you will find auto-renewals embedded in the fine print of all kinds of on-line purchases – vitamins, diet foods, cds, etc. And some of the things you’ve previously purchased are now adding an auto-renewal feature. I say the word “feature” instead of “option” because often you aren’t given a choice up front.
I regularly renew my subscription to a software program that corrects registry problems on my computer. The program works great – so great that I also purchased a copy for my laptop. I’ve never had a problem with renewing my annual subscription – they send me a notice that it’s about to expire and then I renew by visiting the site and filling in the purchase information. I’ve done this for five years. The other day I was having problems with my computer at work so I purchased the program for my office computer with a license to use it on two other computers. I’d planned to buy the program for the rest of the field office computers if my co-workers found the program as useful as I had. (I would pay for the program and then be reimbursed by my boss).
This time when I purchased the program, everything worked the same except for the follow-up email I received confirming my purchase. How nice! It’s always comforting to know that an internet purchase is actually being shipped. But in the fine print of the follow-up email I discovered that my purchase included the convenience of auto-renewal. Convenience??? You don’t want to know the words I said aloud.
Okay, after I calmed down I clicked the link on the email that casually mentioned if I didn’t want this “convenience” I could visit the website and change my account settings. Sounds easy enough? Don’t you believe it! Finding my account settings was like a scavenger hunt without the clues. An hour later I worked my way through a series of titles and subtitles and found it buried about ten pages deep. Another twenty minutes and I located the place where you uncheck the box that authorized them to charge your credit card forever more. I un-clicked it. Immediately a pop-up appeared and warned me of the dire consequences of failing to auto-renew. I swore a blood oath (by checking another box) that I’d risk it.
Leaving the site, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Then my email program dinged. I had mail.
It was an email from the software company. They wanted me to confirm that I had declined the auto-renew option otherwise they would change it back.
Okay, actually the word I used was one that I’ve told my co-author I never use.
Buyers beware! And always watch for follow-up emails – sometimes they’re not just spam.