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March 4, 2013

PC World: Thanks for Subscribing?

Filed under: Business,Computers — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:51 am

Recently, MrConsumer’s PC World subscription was running out, and he had no intention of resubscribing. Then comes this surprising letter:

PC World envelope

What? Thank you for what? This says you are confirming my order. What order? I didn’t place an order? Did you charge my credit card without my permission?

Inside is a “new order confirmation” which says…


PC World confirmation

“Thank you for your previous subscription….”

What a bunch of crap.

Mouse Print* wrote to the publisher, IDG, asking why they would stoop to using this type of deception, and whether they would now discontinue such a misleading practice.

Their response: they sent none.

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  1. Edgar – Thank you for all of your hard work in exposing so many fraudulent, misleading practices, and all of your to-the-point great advice! So glad you caught on to PC World before renewing your subscription. (I have learned to order one year of something I want, then after the 12-month subscription has been charged correctly, I have the card reissued with a new number. That way, these companies cannot continue to charge you for something you don’t want. Remember the mess AOL did to their customers? Many tried to cancel their internet service, but kept getting charged.) Cheers! Keep up the good work!!

    Comment by Big Fan of Consumer World — March 4, 2013 @ 8:19 am
  2. This approach has been used by the Readers Digest corporation for a very long time. They send so many of these “fake” looking invoices, I now just tear them up.

    Comment by Michele Marsden — March 4, 2013 @ 8:43 am
  3. I’m not sure this is fraudulent or misleading, so much as confusing. The fine print makes it sound like you won’t be charged for a new subscription unless you send in the confirmation. It seems like poor practice just from the standpoint that subscribers may think they’re automatically renewed but the subscription actually ended. Not a great way to keep subscribers, in my book.

    Comment by Koka Thomason — March 4, 2013 @ 11:01 am
  4. There’s no doubt the mailer that Edgar received is deceptive and misleading. But I’m guessing that if one reads the text carefully, “To enjoy your…savings, you must send your New Order Confirmation back within ten days,” and Edgar had simply tossed the ad, nothing would have happened. I guess I’m saying that the form is merely a cleverly designed, albeit deceptive, order form that would need to be mailed in for the subscription to renew.

    “Big Fan” below had mentioned use of a credit card to order such things, and then he has the card’s number changed to avoid getting automatically rebilled. I think I have a simpler solution. Whenever I order a magazine subscription, subscribe to a CD or movie club, or even my L.A. Times newspaper subscription, I always pay by check or money order for the reasons we’re discussing. I do that rather than use my credit card if in my estimation there’s any chance my card will be rebilled for an unwanted renewal. Or unwanted movies. Or whatever. That method completely eliminates the problem.

    Comment by Dan Kap, Whittier, CA — March 4, 2013 @ 11:30 am
  5. Never ever ever pay for magazine subscriptions via Credit Card. There are more than a few companies that will go further than PCWorld has here if they have your CC number. Fish out that check pad and write them a bit of paper if you must.

    Comment by DaveMich — March 4, 2013 @ 12:18 pm
  6. You can use a prepaid Visa or Mastercard, we get them at BJ’S, to pay for magazine subscriptions. By the time it is time to renew, whether automatically or not, the card will be used up and they won’t be able to charge it. That’s what we do to subscribe to all our magazines.

    Comment by Jared Goodman — March 4, 2013 @ 2:50 pm
  7. Can a paper check really protect you from future unauthorized debits? Checks are routinely converted into ACH electronic debits today so what’s to stop an unscrupulous company from debiting your checking account in the future by placing an auto-renew clause in the fine print, even if you pay by paper check today?

    My state Gov has just started to do this with tax payments so I no longer have a processed paper check to prove I’ve paid my taxes. Worse still, the ACH debit does not actually say what it was for so there’s nothing to stop the Gov from claiming this was a gift to the state from generous, paranoid me.

    Comment by anonymous — March 4, 2013 @ 3:28 pm
  8. A lot of magazine companies do this. I’ve lots of these over the years. I just ignore them because I know I didn’t order anything and they don’t have a credit card number.

    Comment by Pat — March 4, 2013 @ 7:15 pm
  9. I have an account just for things like this. But there are only two or three things that I charge online. I keep the account below $10.00 and only deposit more when I need to pay for something. That way if they try to automatically deduct anything it will be refused (I have set this up with my bank, if it goes to zero all transactions are refused). Easy to do.

    Comment by Gert — March 5, 2013 @ 11:54 am
  10. I received the same letter from PC World. I like the magazine, but it still has a few months to go and I was just waiting ’till closer to the expiration date to see if I could get a cheaper sub rate. The one I have now for a year cost $15. Since I know enough to never give anyone like magazines my credit card info(I request “bill me later”)I was not concerned with them actually thinking or presuming I wanted to renew. Magazines are trying all sorts of tricks to retain subscribers. Another common scam is for them to send out a “time to renew” months before the subscription ends, some seemingly right after I subscribe. All in all, the lack of a response by PC World should tell us something about their ethics.

    Comment by john nicholson — March 5, 2013 @ 4:44 pm
  11. When they have the sign up for free magazines, I always sign up for them in my dog’s name.

    I then laugh when he gets junk mail or mailings like this as I know that not only does he not have a credit card, he can’t even sign his name! woof

    Comment by Gina — March 5, 2013 @ 9:14 pm
  12. I use ‘throw away’ credit card numbers. My CC provider has that service. Its pretty cool. Useful for 1 purchase and expires in under a month. There have been a few ‘services’ out there that go and try to recharge and are denied 🙂

    Comment by me — March 6, 2013 @ 4:46 pm
  13. Once upon a time, I got a subscription to Newsweek. Paid with a check. At the end of the year, I decided not to renew. Eventually I started getting letters from a collection agency. What?! That’s right, Newsweek noticed that I “forgot” to send in my renewal, and as a “courtesy” they renewed for me. And then sent my “account” to a collection agency when I didn’t pay.

    Needless to say, I was done with Newsweek after that.

    Comment by cmadler — March 6, 2013 @ 8:12 pm
  14. I get those too and first time I got one I was a bit surprised myself. I thought “I don’t remember extending my subscription.” I used to get those all the time from one magazine that my subscription was paid up aroudn 4 years in advance !!!1

    Comment by tracy — March 7, 2013 @ 4:19 pm
  15. Gert, do you have more information no how you set this up with your bank? I tried using a low balance account at my bank for PayPal once. A charge was made that I wasn’t expecting. The bank refused the charge, but charged me a NSF anyway. Then PP reissued the charge and I got billed another NSF. I’d like to get what you have set up with my bank, but would need some reference material to show them.

    Comment by Marc K — March 8, 2013 @ 8:07 am
  16. Marc K., My bank is a local bank, so maybe that makes a difference? They also have no fee checking and I chose a ‘debit card’ for this particular account, at my bank when an account linked to a ‘debit’ card hits zero the charge is refused. It might seem like a lot of trouble but it also limits what a hacker could get if they gain access to my account!

    Comment by Gert — March 8, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

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