The Auto-Renewal Trap

Last week, as I packed up the last of my stuff and moved from Reading to London, I stumbled upon an old credit card statement.

I’m not gonna lie – there’s a reason I write dating advice, and not financial advice … (Yes, I did work in banking up until last week!)

I rarely read credit card statements.  And I *may* have once got an interest free credit card, maxed it out, and left it at its max …

I didn’t use the card at all after that – which was why so confusing when I got over-limit fees on the credit card.

Last week I found out why.

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I signed up to eHarmony about two years ago.  I trialled it for what I thought was three months.  It turns out I signed up for a year membership, and that membership was on auto renewal!

Over the past year, I’d spent over £150 on an internet dating site I didn’t know I had a membership for!  Ironically, I’d even spoken with eHarmony earlier in the year about arranging a free trial for the blog!  The whole time I’d been a paid up member!

I had fallen into the Auto-Renewal Trap.  It’s something I’m normally really good at spotting, but I know a lot of not-so-internet savvy daters fall foul to every day.

When I signed up for my eHarmony membership, I’d failed to notice the Auto Renewal terms on my membership, or appreciate that I needed to cancel the auto renewal feature.  This kind of ‘trap’ is by no means exclusive to eHarmony – all the major online dating sites do it.  And it’s not exclusive to online dating.  It’s something I have to remember every time I buy stock photos online, and with film and TV sites.

The thing about Auto Renewal, is that not only is it often a very subtle feature, which can’t be undone at the purchase stage (sometimes you have to wait over a week before you can unsubscribe), companies also make it as difficult as possible for you to unsubscribe from the feature.  You may think you’ve cancelled the renewal, but you’re actually expected to click through a series of different screens, and fill in a questionnaire to explain why you want to unsubscribe, before the auto-renewal is actually cancelled.

It’s something money saving expert Martin Lewis (who is far better with money than me!) has talked about on his site Money Saving Expert.  He recommends setting up a ‘Tart Alert‘ to remind you when to cancel.

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My tips for avoiding the Auto Renewal trap are as follows – 

1) Keep an eye out for it whenever you sign up to a renewable service online

2) If you can’t opt out at the point of sale, then make sure you make a note of when you can opt out.

3) Always check your credit card statements for unexpected charges

4) Make sure when you cancel direct debits with a company, you also cancel it with your bank

5) Don’t use a card or account that you rarely use or check – if I’d signed up with a card I often used, I’d have noticed the charges far sooner

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I was really lucky  – to their credit eHarmony were extremely helpful, and refunded me within 24 hours of me noticing the issue.

As part of my complaint I drew my attention to the fact I hadn’t accessed the account for over a year, and that I had even gone so far as to contact them about a trial subscription for the blog.

However, the journalist in me knows the reason I received such fast acting customer service was because I was very vocal in my complaint on Twitter, and because I write quite a prolific dating blog.  Not everyone has those channels of complaint.

Normal complaints like this would be met with a blanket response that the T&Cs include details of opting out of Auto Renewal, and would be dealt with in 7-10 days, by a team in the US, NOT within 24 hours.

I would like to thank eHarmony for their help in the matter – £150 is a lot of money for a service I hadn’t used for almost two years.

If you have been a member of a dating site, and you think you cancelled the membership, but still get emails from the site, it’s worth remembering you’re not always just getting emails because you’re still on a mailing list.  You may have failed to cancel the membership properly – so take 5 minutes to check your old account, or to check your bank statements – you could get the same nasty shock I did when I moved house!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

 

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  1. How Long Should You Sign Up To A Dating Site For? | The 30 Dates Blog

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