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Just Cancel the @#%$* Account! 483

Posted by Zonk
from the patience-grasshopper dept.
An anonymous reader writes "PC World Senior Editor Tom Spring signed up for 32 online accounts. Then tried to cancel all of them. The most difficult to cancel: NetZero. The easiest to cancel: Consumer Reports Online and The New York Times TimesSelect. His experience was rated on a number of criteria, and highlights the hoops that commercial enterprises put in place to keep their 'customers'. From the article: 'I had a hard time canceling my $5 monthly Gold Classmates.com account, too. I couldn't find any information on how to cancel until I entered the word cancel In the site's search engine. Classmates.com spokesperson John Uppendahl confirmed that there is no other way to find cancellation information. But that was only the first hoop I had to jump through to cancel my membership. Classmates.com also forced me to click through several Web pages reminding me of the benefits I'd lose. Finally my clicking ended at a generic Member Support e-mail contact page containing a blank 'Your Question' field. Though the form said nothing about cancellations, I used it to request that the service cancel my subscription. The next day I received an e-mail message confirming that the service had accepted my request.'"
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Just Cancel the @#%$* Account!

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  • NetZero... (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:14AM (#17495456) Homepage
    I had a NetZero account some time ago, as a dial-up account to use when I traveled. (This was before all the hotels started offering wi-fi.) The funny thing is that I didn't cancel it, instead they canceled it on me... When my credit card number changed (twice), they only attempted to contact me via my NetZero email account - which of course I never looked at. The first time the card number changed I happened to discover it and fixed the problem, asking them to contact me at a different email if it happened again; the second time, I didn't notice and they never tried.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:30AM (#17495550)
    I concur. Match.com was the same way. They made me click through a half dozen pages each one reminding me of a service I would miss out on. Even when I was signed up they still occasionally displayed pages reminding me of the great services I was getting (I just want to follow the link I clicked on, not view an advertisement). When I signed up, they didn't even give me the option of not renewing. If you don't want them to automatically renew your membership, you have to cancel your service. However, if you cancel within the first three days they terminate your service altogether.

    I personally use a Visa gift card for online services. It gives me some sense of security knowing they can't charge me more than the card is worth.

  • by Knightlymuse (626563) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:46AM (#17495638)
    MSN Internet was on the list. They scored as "Big Hassle"

    Here is the Big Hassle list:

    * AOL
    * BlueMountain.com
    * Classmates.com
    * ESPN
    * MSN Internet
    * Napster.com
    * NetZero
    * Real Rhapsody
    * Real SuperPass
    * True.com
  • by fishdan (569872) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:51AM (#17495676) Homepage Journal
    Let me advise you that this is not as good a defense as you think. I did the same thing, and a company that I tried to quit from sent the "debt" (that I did not renew and tried to cancel) into collection, which to this day shows up on my credit record. I don't know if what they did is legal, but I can tell you it's been a huge pain in my ass to try to get this cleared up.

    They say "you knowingly signed up and agreed to XYZ unless you canceled, so just because your credit card has expired, doesn't mean you don't owe us." And when you put it that way, I think they're right.

    At least legally.
  • by Trojan35 (910785) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:55AM (#17495692)
    It literally took me 2 hours on the phone to cancel this service. And an hour and a half of that was actually talking to a real live person.

    Unbelievable. It probably cost the company $50 in salary, social security, benefits, and phone usage to delay me canceling the service, all for possibly me getting frustrated and waiting 1 more month to cancel the $10 service.

    I learned my lesson though. Next time I had to cancel an insurance policy, I simply told them "I've talked to you for 10 minutes. You have confirmed my identity. Cancel my account or I will chargeback any charges to my credit card ".

    Seems to work ok, most of the time.
  • by Leebert (1694) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @03:55AM (#17495700)
    FTA:

    I also found a section of the TOS contract that read: "You also agree not to dispute any authorized charge by True.com or its authorized agents." And "if you fraudulent[ly] report that an authorized charge by True.com or its authorized agents is unauthorized, you shall be liable to True.com for liquidated damages of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per incident."


    Clearly no one is within their rights to dispute authorized charges. That's the whole point of a chargeback -- it's to charge back unauthorized charges.

    You can't sign away your right to dispute unauthorized charges. For example, VISA's Chargeback Guidelines [visa.com] (PDF) specifically address this:


    "No Chargeback" Sales Receipts
    Independent entrepreneurs have been selling sales-receipt stock bearing a statement near the signature area that the cardholder waives the right to charge the transaction back to the merchant. These receipts are being marketed to merchants with the claim that they can protect businesses against chargebacks; in fact, they do not. "No chargeback" sales receipts undermine the integrity of the Visa payment system and
    are prohibited.


    BTW, reading the VISA document above is well worth time. It's useful for those checkout line arguments you invariably find yourself in occasionally. (minimum charges, ID checks, etc.)
  • efax sucks! (Score:5, Informative)

    by didiken (93521) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:12AM (#17495772) Homepage
    I asked my secretary to sign up an efax account a few days ago. They claim you can "try it for FREE in one month". And the stupid part, she puts down a credit card number there (It's free rigth?). So, they charged the credit card fraudulently the next day, even though it's supposed to be a god damn free trial. All right, so:
    1. We try to go to their site, looking for "cancel subscriptions". We search "cancel" and they have 2 links in their help page. But when I clicked on it, it shows nothing (both Firefox and IE 7)
    2. Then we try their web chat. First when I tell the web chat we are cancelling, they give me ANOTHER link for their support chat. Fine. AND THEN, when we try to use their chat, it's broken. It starts to sound fishy to me up to this point...
    3. We then try to call their support line. It takes forever just to go through the phone menus, and then we were put on hold for 20 minutes. Finally, a guy with distinctly Indian accent answered the call. He did not speak English that, I have to guesstimate what he said. I have to basically just keep saying "I just need to cancel my subscription, no thanks." repeatedly to get him stop repeat the scripted answers. Anyway... in the end this support guy said he'd give us a refund, but he'd put us on hold again to talk to the billing department. And finally he claimed the support department will refund us "in a few days". Oh yes, takes less than a day to charge the credit card, but a few days to refund...
    In the end we spent half an hour to deal with the cancellation. You are free to call their support line, and then see how much time to get to their billing "department". Here is more efax horror stories [typepad.com]. Don't ever try to use efax in your life time. You have been warned. How these companies manage to piss their customers is beyond me.
  • Re:.Mac & iTunes (Score:5, Informative)

    by PygmySurfer (442860) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:13AM (#17495780)
    (This is why I laugh whenever some MacHead tells me about how they "buy" their music rather than "rent" it. Cancel your iTunes account and see what happens to those songs you "bought".)

    There's nothing to cancel, iTunes isn't a subscription service. All the songs you purchase are linked to a Apple ID, which doesn't expire.

    Also, you could've continued using the Apple ID created with your .mac account after you cancelled .mac - it continues functioning as an Apple ID. You can even change the email address associated with it, so while your Apple ID may be R3dM3rcury@mac.com, the email address associated with the account could be R3dMercury@fancydomain.org

    As for the ID being "buried" within OS X, try opening up the .Mac Preference Pane, and removing your old info.
  • Blockbuster Online (Score:4, Informative)

    by kahrytan (913147) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:33AM (#17495868)

    From my experience; You can suspend billing of a Blockbuster Online account from the website itself. They won't bill you again, account remains open, and no futher dvds at sent to you. And you can reactivate billing to continue dvd mailings to you.
  • by Leebert (1694) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:40AM (#17495894)

    Some companies specifically forbid using Virtual cards.
    Their contract specifies a monetary value that a customer
    must pay, if one signs up using one these cards.


    This would be in violation of the VISA Merchant Agreement. Though merchantes ARE permitted to refuse to accept debit/prepaid VISA cards, they may not charge an additional fee for the use of a credit card (though a "cash discount" is permissible). See http://merchants.visa.com/ds/pdfs/Card_Acceptance_ and_Chargeback_Guidelines.pdf [visa.com] (PDF), pg. 10 "No Surcharging".
  • by ShinyBrowncoat (692095) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @04:59AM (#17495960) Homepage
    NetFlix is unbelievably easy to cancel, and to restart membership later. The ease of canceling actually played an important role in my later deciding to re-subscribe. You just don't see that kind of customer-comes-first attitude much these days.
  • by Brianech (791070) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:00AM (#17495962)
    Vonage was listed as "No hassle" but I found quite the contrary. You can only cancel over the phone, which runs from 9-5 EST Mon-Fri. This caused a pretty big problem considering I work 6am-4pm PST Mon-Fri (Its a Mill, work scheduled overtime weekly). I figured I could do it over my lunch break. But after calling the number they list to "cancel" I was bounced to another person, and found the waiting time to be over 45mins (at which time I had to head back to work).

    Basically I had to wait a few weeks until we had some downtime due to an accident. After waiting almost on hour and a half on hold, the operator kept trying to talk me out of it. I finally convinced her when I said "I JUST WANT TO FUCKING CANCEL". It was silent for a moment and then she said "OK, its all done, have a nice day." I guess I may have just had a unique encounter, but Vonage for me was FAR from easy. They have 24 hour support, but can't have 24 hour cancellations... I wont ever be returning to them. Had it been painless, I probably would have returned to Vonage when I moved.
  • by johnw (3725) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:15AM (#17496016)
    This certainly isn't the case in the UK any more. It used to be part of the agreement, but was removed quite a few years ago (at least 10). You find a number of businesses do charge an additional fee (usually a percentage) if you pay with a credit card.
  • Re:.Mac & iTunes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Angostura (703910) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:18AM (#17496032)
    When you purchase music from the iTunes store, iTunes prompts you to back it up and asks you to insert a CD.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:18AM (#17496034)
    Coinky Dink? I don't think so.

    Oh I'll give a shout out to Audible.com: every time I've had to ask them a question they've given me the benefit of the doubt and credited my account. Really good service.
  • Re:Credit cards suck (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 07, 2007 @05:50AM (#17496174)
    I use Citibank Master Card Diamond Account Preferred and got exactly this. I'm able to generate virtual credit card and set limit and expiration date.
    Maybe you should try that too.
  • by ConanG (699649) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @06:04AM (#17496240)
    Not surpising that Consumer Reports got it perfect. Their host organization, the Consumers Union, published a set of guidelines they think all online sites should follow in order to promote online credibility. It's http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/consumer-reports-w ebwatch-guidelines.cfm [consumerwebwatch.org].

    They've also compiled a list of every site that's pledged to follow the guidelines. (PDF) http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/images/praiseworth y3.pdf [consumerwebwatch.org].
  • by dan dan the dna man (461768) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @07:26AM (#17496542) Homepage Journal
    I had the same issue.

    My solution was to upload as much pornographic material as I could then add people as friends. Those people who blindly authorise add's without checking your profile certainly complain fast enough when xxx material appears in their friends list. I also started filling out the 'report offensive material' on my own account.

    I got the idea from The Consumerist [consumerist.com]

    As my blog on the issue notes:

    "I can confirm this method works. I can also confirm you cannot achieve this by uploading videos - they screen and delete but will not ban your account on ground of you uploading questionable video content. Also if you attempt to upload any shock site material, they have pretty good filters to prevent this from ever being displayed. It took a while, one photograph I uploaded and subsequently reported as being offensive was deemed not to be outside their terms and conditions. The second one however got me banned. If anyone is desparate to know what the content of these two photographs were, well I guess you can but ask."

    The first photo was a shot of what can only be described as interracial anal intercourse. The second one a female face covered in what appears to be male ejaculate. Quite why one is deemed offensive and not the other I to this day have no idea :)
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig,hogger&gmail,com> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @09:46AM (#17497134) Journal
    I wonder what would happen if a subscriber didn't update their credit card info once their card expires to let the account lapse.
    I actually did that with Stupidico "high-speed edition". They actually lodged a complaint for credit card fraud, saying I gave them a false credit card number. Nothing ever came out of it because, well, the credit card has been cancelled...

    The most stupid thing is that I had no problem whatsoever opening another account in another city afterwards. Seems their marketing department has more cloud than their accounts receivable...

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smoking c u be.be> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @09:52AM (#17497164) Homepage
    First you have to call them and spend hours on the phone explaining that you want their services cancelled, why, what you think of their service, your bank card, address, etc. etc. then they give you all types of discounts and freebies to make you change your mind when they finally do cancel it by the end of the month, they send you a 3-month free trial which if you don't cancel it, gets automatically activated into a full membership again
  • by quixote9 (999874) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @10:04AM (#17497244) Homepage
    Paypal. Absolutely. For me, cancellation took 4 years and a letter from the State District Attorney's office. But my friend's experience was even more amazing. She got told to change her name by one of their "service" reps if she wanted anything changed on her real-name account.
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @10:31AM (#17497378)
    Also, if you forget which is the right one, you can visit the FTC's website at http://www.ftc.gov/ [ftc.gov] and navigate to "For Consumers" -> "Credit".
  • Re:efax sucks! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ariven (256118) <ariven&gmail,com> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @11:35AM (#17497704) Homepage
    "Oh yes, takes less than a day to charge the credit card, but a few days to refund"

    no comment on efax... but... some companies (and the one I work for is one of them) trust the general customer service agent to charge your card but not to give money back.. because they dont want extra fraud going on by employees.. such as putting money back onto their own cards out of the company accounts...

    Its a hassle because then the companies typically only have one or a small number of people authorized to put money back on to a card and thats part of what delays the refund.
  • by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.Sean@nOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @11:43AM (#17497762) Homepage
    I'd like to add one to that list, though not really a PC online service. Xbox Live.

    When I had to leave for college a year or two back, I couldn't bring my Xbox with me (because it wasn't even mine. It belongs to my brother. I brought my Gamecube instead) So when I decided it was better to cancel it rather than pay another $50 for a year of a service I rarely used (I only played a few games, and Splinter Cell taught me to hate 13 year olds like nothing else), for a system I wouldn't have, I went to cancel, but, surprise, Microsoft's web pages have no information on canceling. After a great deal of googling, I found out the only way to cancel is to call a special tech-support hotline. And of course, the operator asked about 15 times if I was sure, and listed so many alternatives ("Maybe someone else up there will have an Xbox."). Thanks to that, I don't think I'll ever play another Xbox (or more realistically, a 360, if I ever get the system) game online ever again.
  • Two tricks I use... (Score:5, Informative)

    by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot@NOspam.stango.org> on Sunday January 07, 2007 @12:18PM (#17497994) Homepage Journal
    If I sign up for a trial membership or something that requires a credit card, I create a temporary credit card (via my CC account with MBNA, now Bank of America) with a spending limit of only what I need, and use that. If the vendor earns my trust, I change my billing info to a real card. If they don't, well, good luck trying to perpetually bill the temporary card, fuckers!

    I also run my own mailserver, so every vendor I deal with gets their own address which just redirects to my main address. When I cease dealing with them, their e-mail address goes away and I never see another message from them. (This is also a handy method to see who's selling their customer databases to spammers)

    ~Philly
  • by LordKronos (470910) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @12:22PM (#17498006) Homepage
    Let me advise you that this is not as good a defense as you think. I did the same thing, and a company that I tried to quit from sent the "debt" (that I did not renew and tried to cancel) into collection, which to this day shows up on my credit record. I don't know if what they did is legal, but I can tell you it's been a huge pain in my ass to try to get this cleared up.

    Read the following thread:
    http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/arcmessageview.php ?catid=52&threadid=154139 [fatwallet.com]

    And follow the link to the creditnet.com message board. That forum is VERY good at helping to get credit reports cleaned up. Getting invalid derogatory info off you credit report is usually a piece of cake, and if it is difficult they can tell you how to get a quick $1K out of the company that reported it (there are government regulations they have to follow, and if they don't you get free money). If the debt reported is valid, there is still a decent chance to get it removed (either because the company doesn't maintain proper documentation or fails to follow government mandated procedures for responding to complaints/inquiries).

  • by NormalVisual (565491) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @01:06PM (#17498320)
    Not only is it a shady business overall, the individuals involved are generally some of the most unethical people you'll meet. Your best bet when dealing with them (in the US, anyway) is to have a good grasp of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a recorder for your telephone, and an unwillingness to talk to them *at all* unless they agree to recording the conversations.

  • by beemishboy (781239) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @01:10PM (#17498348)
    I wonder what would happen if a subscriber didn't update their credit card info once their card expires to let the account lapse.

    In a related note, that very thing happened with me with Gold's Gym - my credit card lapsed and I had moved after college. I got a hold of them about the account after finding negative marks on my credit report. I paid the rest of my contract but they didn't tell me that after my contract was completed, I went to automatic monthly renewal. They also didn't tell me that I couldn't cancel that automatic renewal over the phone, neither could I go in person into one of their local locations. I tried to do both of these, visiting their gym when on vacation because I lived in another state at the time. For the phone cancellation, they said that they worried that some joker might cancel my account for me over the phone. I couldn't cancel at one of their locations because they just didn't cancel an account there...which was odd because a whole gaggle of tanned/manicured individuals were there to *create* accounts for people. I had to fax in a signed statement to their corporate offices (for that set of gyms) saying that I wanted to cancel my account.

    So, not only did I have to pay for 6 months of gym "service" while living out of state because they had put me on automatic renewal, more bad credit stuff showed up on my credit report.

    When I talked to them on the phone about the whole deal, they politely (sarcasm) responded that automatic renewal was in the contract so it was my own fault. So when I moved back to the state where the account was, I opted to avoid their gym like a basket full of snakes and spiders.

    Let's give it up for self-serving companies who go to great lengths to sign people up but have to be threatened with legal action or with a public relations campaign to improve their practices in order to avoid destroying their own customers' credit. Btw, I know a guy whose credit was actually completely ruined by that same chain of Gold's Gyms - which btw is in the Salt Lake and Provo/Orem areas of Utah.
  • by stanmann (602645) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @02:28PM (#17499034) Journal
    I did cancel AOL. and was NOT billed for 2 months. the third month AOL billed again.. I called again, cancelled AGAIN, and after another skipped month, they resumed billing.
  • by fishbowl (7759) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:35AM (#17504300)

    >No, it isn't an example of comparison shopping. It's an example of someone applying for multiple accounts/loans.

    Yes. Whenever I've bought real estate, I've applied for multiple loans, in order to shop rates and terms. That's comparison shopping, regardless of what you want to call it. In home loans, you don't actually get the rate quote before applying; it's late in the approval process when you get that.

    >The only time the credit bureaus are involved is when you actually apply and the creditor requests a credit report. At
    >that point one would hope you had already picked one.

    The bank or finance company certainly hopes that, but it's not their call to require it, thank you very much.

    I'm in the sevens, and I own a fair amount of real estate including rental properties, a homestead estate, and a farm.
    When I talk to loan people *I* do most of the talking.

  • by evilneko (799129) on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:26AM (#17504588)
    The worst thing Comcast has done to me is sell me off to Time Warner/Roadrunner. I say this after having to go through the BBB to get a credit for my intermittent connection, which after the repair, was rock solid. I'd eagerly welcome them back. Maybe I'm nuts, maybe I'm lucky.
  • by ShaunC (203807) * on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:15PM (#17510134)
    So, you can get this form from the post office that declares that you don't want the junk mail from that one particular source. You also need to bring a sample of the junk mail. My wife found it all on the web, so it's there, but again I'm too lazy to Google for it.
    What you need is a copy of Form 1500. There is more information on Stopping Junk Postal Mail [drunkwerks.com].

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