Saturday, April 28, 2007

More on Opt Out Marketing

I have written before with my thoughts on opt out marketing, and I wanted to share a couple of additional examples of companies that I think are pond scum.

www.freecreditreport.com
These lovely pieces of humanity offer consumers a free copy of their credit report. Of course, in order to get the free credit report you have to sign up for their credit monitoring service. Here is their disclosure:

When you order your free report here, you will begin your free trial membership in Triple AdvantageSM Credit Monitoring. If you don't cancel your membership within the 30-day trial period, you will be billed $12.95 for each month that you continue your membership.

OK so the credit report is free, but if you don't contact them and cancel they will start charging you $12.95 a month for their service.

Instead, consumers should simply go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ and get a totally free credit report with no opt-out marketing hook.

www.bargainnetwork.com
This is a portal to two so-called free offers.

First is for Bargain Homes, which says it will let you:

View Thousands of Foreclosures and FSBOs Nationwide for FREE!
Except its terms and conditions state:

Complete the registration form and click "Submit" to activate your trial membership and take advantage of your Bargain Network Trial Membership today. To activate your 7-day trial membership you will be charged/debited a $1.00 refundable activation fee, and you can immediately take advantage of the great savings Bargain Network has to offer. After your 7-day trial period your membership continues at $9.95 per week and will be automatically charged/debited on a monthly basis on or about that same date to the credit card you provide today or from the checking account associated with the debit card you provide today at $39.80 (which will appear as two items, one for $38.80 and one for $1.00).
So the so-called free trial costs money and if you don't proactively cancel in 7 days they start billing you roughly $10 a week for their ongoing service.

They also offer Bargain Motors, which boasts the word "free" seven times on its introductory page. Do these terms and conditions look familiar:

*Offer Details: Complete the registration form and click "Submit" to activate your trial membership and take advantage of your Bargain Network Trial Membership today. To activate your 7-day trial membership you will be charged/debited a $1.00 refundable activation fee, and you can immediately take advantage of the great savings Bargain Network has to offer. After your 7-day trial period your membership continues at $9.95 per week and will be automatically charged/debited on a monthly basis on or about that same date to the credit card you provide today or from the checking account associated with the debit card you provide today at $39.80 (which will appear as two items, one for $38.80 and one for $1.00).

Oops, they forgot to change Bargain Network to Bargain Motors in the terms. Still the same deal, free is only free until they start charging you.

They also offer Bargain Shopping, which has this lovely information in its terms and conditions:

The day you ordered marks the beginning of your free trial membership and your ability to access Our Services. The length of your free trial is the one offered to you at the time of purchase, and the MEMBERSHIP FEE (which includes applicable sales tax) is the amount you agreed to pay at the time of purchase. You may have been offered, and agreed to purchase, a membership plan that did not include a free trial.

At the time of purchase you may have agreed to and been charged one or more separate one time fees such as an activation fee, enrollment or processing fee, shipping and handling, or trial period fee, as applicable.

At the time you ordered you may have been offered a continuity or a fixed term membership. If you ordered a continuity membership the MEMBERSHIP FEE is for Our Services during the period stated to you at the time of purchase and is not refundable. After the free trial, and every month thereafter until you cancel, your MEMBERSHIP FEE, or its monthly equivalent, will be automatically billed to your credit card (or debited from your checking account, if you authorized that option). You can call us at 1-800-211-0000 to cancel your continuity membership at any point and have no further obligation. Cancellations must be done by telephone.


The smart moves are as follows:

  • Never, ever give your credit/debit card information for a free trial. If you give your card you have basically given permission for them to charge you -- even if they say they won't. If they are not going to charge you, then why do they need your card number?
  • Read the terms and conditions.

This is NOT my last word on this subject.

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