This is going to be a very angry post, so be warned.
Some time ago I posted about being caught out by an autorenewal from a pet supply site [online]. Well, it seems that the latest money making scam is to make a lot of online purchases ‘subscriptions’. Then, those subscriptions are set to autorenew…BY DEFAULT. You are forced to opt-in whether you want to or not, and the information is often hidden way down in the fine-fine-fine print.
The reason I’m frothing at the mouth today is because I’ve been stung, again.
Until November, 2021, I was using BitDefender Antivirus. I thought I’d bought a standalone product the same as I’d done for many years. I thought I’d paid for a one year licence, and that if I wanted updates after that, I would have to buy the product again after it expired.
Nope. Apparently BitDefender is now a subscription ‘service’ that’s set to renew automatically. To renew manually, you have to consciously opt-out.
Despite being a literate computer/internet user, I had no idea I’d ‘agreed’ to an autorenewal, and I had absolute not idea the product I’d bought was being administered by a company called 2Checkout. In fact, I switched to Kaspersky Anti Virus about a month before the BitDefender licence was due to expire… -hollow laughter-
When I demanded a refund I was offered sweeteners I did not want. I’m still waiting for a full refund.
Then today I thought I’d do a post on how renewals should be done. I thought I’d take some screenshots of how Kaspersky does it. Imagine my horror when I discovered that Kaspersky is now doing exactly the same thing. But at least it’s being more upfront about it….
The link circled in red above says ‘Subscription 321 days remaining’. Clicking on the link took me to:
Ah hah! Manage subscription. Just what I wanted…
Or not. Hmm… what the heck does ‘Initialize your credentials’ mean?
I tried using the id and password I had for kaspersky.com but it didn’t work. What followed was a LOT of frustration as I tried to work out how to cancel my autorenewal. In the end I found this:
When I clicked on the blue ‘How to disable license auto-renewal for Kaspersky solutions for home’ I was taken to this screen:
What the? Where did I buy it? Why, I bought it from Kaspersky…didn’t I?
The following is a close-up:
Dear god…had I kept the confirmation email??? Panic!
I did find the confirmation email, and this is what the ‘bottom’ looks like:
To get to the bottom, I had to scroll quite a long way down, way past the point you see when you open an email normally. Apparently, a company called Nexway handled my purchase. News to me:
Excuse me? Method of payment??? What the bloody fuck? How can buying something online with a credit card constitute an acceptance of autorenewal????? But, of course, it’s all there in black and white at the bottom of a very long email where NO ONE ever looks….
By this stage I have to tell you that I was getting very anxious, but at least there was a ‘hassle free cancellation’ link to use…
<<cue screaming and rending of hair>>
The ‘hassle free’ link took me to a page that seemed to require a login…but the only login I had did not work. That left me searching for technical support from Kaspersky… This is what I wrote in the online contact form that took forever to find:
I still have almost a year to go before my Kaspersky Anti Virus autorenews, and I may choose to stay with Kaspersky, but I will not be forced into doing so.
More importantly, I will not allow my credit card details to remain with a company I know nothing about [Nexway]. Those credit card details are an open door to my bank account, and I have no idea whether Nexway will be the next global company to be hacked. Fear of hacking is one reason I’m so very careful with direct debits.
Oh? You didn’t realise that autorenewals were direct debits? They are, but direct debits require a formal acceptance. Funny how a name can change things…
And just for the record, I am very familiar with the subscription model and the concept of autorenewal:
- I have a domain name with Godaddy, and I choose to autorenew every year. Despite that, Godaddy sends me an email notification well ahead of time. It does not send the notification and take my money on the same day, the way the company out-sourced by BitDefender did. Yup, 2Checkout, another company I know nothing about has my credit card details.
- Elder Scrolls Online has a subscription option that I use once or twice a year. It autorenews as well, but cancelling the subscription is so easy you could do it in your sleep:
After clicking ‘Manage Membership’ I get:
And that’s it. Easy. Maybe it has to be easy because by and large, gamers are very computer savvy. If Elder Scrolls Online tried to make it hard for gamers to cancel their subscriptions, they’d lose gamers by the thousands. Plus gamers are a very vocal lot.
Getting back to anti virus autorenewals, I have no idea yet how Kaspersky handles notifications when a subscription is getting close to autorenewal. I hope they do it better than BitDefender, but given how much time I’ve already wasted trying to opt-OUT of this bloody autorenewal, I’m not feeling very sanguine.
Autorenewals can be very convenient. They can also be a very expensive trap. As for this new thing of making customers accept autorenewal by default – without any formal acceptance! – and then forcing them to jump through hoops to opt-out, that is just a fraud.
Let me repeat that. Autorenewal by default, often without the customer being aware of it should not be legal. Why companies are allowed to get away with it I do not know.
Why is no one complaining?
Why are consumer rights groups not jumping up and down like me?
We have always lived in a buyer beware world, but when the corporates keep changing the goal posts to hoodwink us out of our money, that skirts right on the edge of the criminal. If you have subscriptions, check them now, otherwise you could find yourself out of pocket.
Whatever you do, do not chalk any losses up to experience. We are Davids in a world full of Goliaths. Get angry. Fight back, if not for yourself, then do it for all those people who are more vulnerable than you…the elderly, young kids, teens who never read the small print…
The abuse we ignore is the abuse we condone.