What is the Deal with Automatic Billing When it Comes to Online Dating?
Q:Several months ago I signed up for an online service. I thought I signed up for a month but apparently kept getting charged a recurring billing fee every month. Now 6 months later, I realize I have been charged close to $200. Am I on the hook for the cash or can I protest the charge?
You may be on the hook, but you have some limited options. This circumstance is not an uncommon one, and demonstrates the downside of the convenience that comes with recurring billing. While recurring billing among other things can allow consumers to commit to a service for a shorter period of time, for example allowing them to try out a service and evaluate it rather than signing up for a full year, it plays to our natural tendency to forget bills that are not right in front of us. If you don't unsubscribe, your credit card or bank account continues to be billed. Not all of us carefully review our statements line by line, and if you are not paying attention you can amass unwanted (but agreed to) charges. This is why one must always read billing agreements carefully before clicking, and must remember to keep track if you do.
When you protest a specific charge or charges to your account, banks or credit card companies will refund the purchase (called a chargeback on a bank account) or place the credit card payment obligation on hold while an inquiry is made with the vendor. The vendor will have an opportunity to prove the transaction was legitimate; usually through your signature or a completed on-line consent form, if the language is clear and unambiguous. But if the language of the agreement is unclear you may have a chance to prevail. Further, if you complain directly to the company they may not want to spend significant time fighting with you or otherwise exposing themselves to unwanted public attention to a consumer's complaint, particularly where you might not be the first person to complain or the agreement was not worded clearly. The company (speak to a supervisor) may agree to compromise or waive the charge, depending on the circumstance. And if you feel that you were intentionally deceived, with documents supporting your position, you may want to file a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau.
This serves as yet another reminder to be exceedingly cautious in reading the fine print before hitting the agree button on your on-line transactions.
DISCLAIMER: This publication is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship by way of any information contained herein. The information provided is for general purposes only, as readers are advised to consult with a qualified lawyer regarding the specifics of their particular circumstances.