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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Auto-Renewal Fuels Foolish Duel

The Ancestry.com Site Comments message board was aflame last week. The result was what you would expect when two angry non-attorneys argue about the finer points of international contract law.

At issue was the Ontario Consumer Protection Act which took effect July 30, and whether it outlaws or requires amendment of Ancestry.com's automatic-renewal policy (the relevant section is here).

We all know and love the automatic-renewal policy. Forget to cancel your subscription before its expiration date and the friendly folks at Ancestry.com will renew it for you. Since they already have your credit-card number, it's quite easy for them to add a zero or two to your balance. The policy is laid out in their Terms & Conditions, which every potential subscriber is obliged to commit to memory.

The policy has had its share of unwitting—and sometimes witless—victims. Take poor Doofus over at crapulent.com, who posted this on Saturday:

Don't want to think about how long I've been a member of the genealogy website Ancestry.com. I only joined it to get a free iPod. . . I never searched anything at ancestry.com.

[snip]

Stayed a member so long partly because you can't cancel via email, tried that, you have to call and wait on hold forever, all the while listening to classical music. I would get tired of waiting on hold and forget about it until the next time it renewed.
If only he lived in Ontario.

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