Category Archives: My soap box

How to disable autorenewals…BEFORE you buy

This is the third, and I promise, the last post on this autorenewals saga. I’m posting it because I received some new information from Kaspersky tech support today and I decided to check it out. According to Kaspersky, you can disable autorenewals from your shopping cart, before you buy:

Sure enough, there it is: ‘Auto-Renewal: ON – Details’. Believe me when I say that I did not see that at all when I bought Kaspersky Anti-Virus back in November 2021. My guess is that the design of the interface, including the size of the font was the result of advice from an industrial psychologist familiar with human behaviour: once you reach the shopping cart, you have already made up your mind to buy so checking for the fine print is very unlikely.

Okay, not super impressed, but let’s see if BitDefender used the same tactic:

The answer is…yes and no. As you can see from the screenshot, there is a link to ‘Auto renewal’, and it’s in the same position in the same small font, but there’s no mention of whether it is on or off. Assuming that I even saw that link, I would assume it lead to a window where I could choose to turn autorenewal on.

Apparently not:

Autorenewals are on and you can turn them off by logging into your Bitdefender Account [if you have one] or by contacting Customer Support. Unfortunately, you have to buy the product before you can do either of those things.

By contrast, this is what you get with Kaspersky:

That screenshot is telling. With Kaspersky, you are told that autorenewals are on and you are given the opportunity to turn them off before you buy. I still HATE the fact that autorenewals are turned on by default, and I also HATE that the opt-out is not presented in great big letters that you can’t miss, but at least you can turn it off before you buy. With Bitdefender you don’t even get that.

I wonder if the difference between these two companies has something to do with the fact that Kaspersky is a Russian company, so by definition it has to meet the expectations of the EU rather than the US?

I’m going to put that theory into practice when I start research for a new anti-virus. What I’ll be looking for is an EU based company that not only provides a way to turn autorenewals off but maybe never turns them on in the first place.

To the Bitdefender sales team, if they deign to read this post: ‘I will never buy a Bitdefender product again, and I will do my best to dissuade others from buying from you as well. If and when you stop making autorenewal opt-out, I may consider buying from you again.’

Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences about autorenewals-by-default. Let’s hope we can make enough of a stink to put a dent into some sales. 😀

cheers
Meeks


Autorenewal : Kaspersky and BitDefender Update

Yesterday, I received an email from BitDefender telling me that my ‘autorenewal’ would be refunded. Today, I received an email from Kaspersky saying that my ‘autorenewal’ was cancelled, and that I could renew manually when my anti virus expired in November 2022. Yay.

Kaspersky also provided information about how to change the account settings relating to renewals:

The Nexway customer account is not created automatically, instead, the Order Confirmation email contains a link to the account creation page. This link has a unique SSID built into it which links the order automatically.

Please ensure that you have clicked on the “access your customer area” in the Order Confirmation email. Once the “access your customer area” link is clicked, the homepage appears where both login and password are created. Then, you can configure your subscription’s settings.

Going back to the order confirmation email, I found this:

Clicking on the ‘access your customer account’ link took me to this page:

Two important things to note:

  1. the URL is for ‘shop.kaspersky.com.au’. There is NO mention of Nexway.
  2. the only instructions are to ‘Please sign in to access the features below’.

To me, those two things imply that the login is to an existing account, not that I should create a new account.

Nit picking?

No. Just another indication that the consumer is not meant to stop autorenewals easily. Remember how easy it was to stop the autorenewal of my Elder Scrolls Online subscription?

Moving on. Knowing that I had to create a new account, I clicked in the login box and tried to enter my email address. As you can see. It wasn’t accepted. Given that my email address is used to verify that I am who I say I am, this seems a little…odd.

Moving on. So then I typed in a new password, twice, and clicked ‘Initialize your credentials’. This is what happened next:

What in blue blazes is an ‘invalid token’?

And that was the point at which I could go no further. Without any instructions or explanations, the ONLY way to get into this separate account is blocked. There is no way for me to get in and opt out of this bogus autorenewal.

Now I ask you, is all this simply a case of terrible interface design? Or is it all part of a kind of passive resistance set up to make opting out as hard as possible while still being technically legal?

Points in favour of this hypothesis:

  • information about the subscription and autorenewal is covered in the confirmation email, almost as an after thought, but no mention is made of it on the website where you actually buy the product.
  • more importantly, this is the first time the word ‘autorenewal’ is used.
  • this is also the first time that the name of a third party is mentioned.
  • the link to ‘access your customer account’ comes after the link for ‘hassle free cancellation’.
  • there is no mention of the fact that you have to create a customer account before you can use it for ‘hassle free cancellation’.
  • assuming you work out what to do next, there is still no clear instruction that you have to create a new account with a company other than Kaspersky.
  • when you do try to create said new account…the process fails.

Quite frankly, if I were not as bloody-minded and stubborn as I am, I would have given up long ago, consoling myself with the thought that ‘ah well, I’ll just cancel when the licence expires’.

There are two problems with that expectation. The first is that my/your credit card details will remain with a third party – in this case Nexway – for the whole year. That leaves your bank account open to the potential of abuse.

The second problem is one that I experienced with BitDefender, or should I say, 2Checkout, the company outsourced to handle renewals. Without boring you to tears, I received two emails telling me that my BitDefender anti virus was about to expire. The first was on December 14, the second on December 29. Neither mentioned that my account was set for autorenewals.

This is a screenshot of the email from December 29 from Bitdefender 2checkout:

Now let’s zoom in to the bottom half:

At this point, I’m being urged to renew AND it’s suggested that I ‘consider enabling the automatic renewal option’. Clearly that means the automatic renewal option is NOT enabled.

Having decided not to use BitDefender over a month before, I ignored both emails. Then, on the one day of the year that I didn’t check my emails, I received this:

The email is dated January 1, 2022 but the first I knew about it was on January 2, 2022, when I discovered that my account had been debited $69.99 AUD. I can assure you that I did not ‘renew’ BitDefender! Why would I when I’d already bought and installed Kaspersky Anti Virus back in November, 2021?

I immediately asked for a refund, but the person who responded to my email only offered sweeteners to keep me from ‘leaving’. I said I wanted a full refund. I was told that refunds could only be approved by BitDefender.

Call me stupid, but this was the first time that it actually registered with me that I was not talking to a BitDefender representative.

When someone from BitDefender finally did contact me, he began by saying that I had received a notification on the 24th of December and should have cancelled then instead of waiting until the 2nd of January. I checked my inbox and my spam folder but there was no such email. As you have seen, the closest date was the email of the 29th which did NOT say anything about an autorenewal.

I do not know whether 2checkout stuffed up big time or whether this was always going to happen. All I know is that I’ve wasted a lot of my precious time trying to claw back $69 I could not afford to lose.

I’ll be getting a refund from BitDefender sometime in the next week, but it should not have been necessary in the first place.

I should not have had to fight so hard to extricate myself from a system that seems to be designed to fleece consumers of their money.

ANY autorenewal should be on an opt-in basis. Just because you call something a ‘subscription’ does not mean that the consumer has agreed to a direct debit of their account!

I hesitate to say that opt-out autorenewals are illegal because I don’t have the necessary knowledge or qualifications, but I’d love to hear from anyone who does.

Is it illegal?

And if it is, how do you go about prosecuting an international company?

cheers,
Meeks


Seeing red over autorenewals

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.

Meeks


Blocked from Twitter!

I’ve been rationing my visits to Twitter because so much on #auspol is either blatant spin or outright rubbish. Now, apparently, I’m to be blocked:

What the…?

And then I found out what the fuss is about. @GladysB is the newly resigned Premier of NSW who presided over the Delta outbreak that spread to my state, Victoria, and even across to New Zealand. She had to resign because she’s being investigated by ICAC on corruption. She is a monster. But inciting physical harm? Seriously?

So…the rather literary punishment of tarring and feathering is abuse…at least according to the Twitter algorithms. With so much misinformation and disinformation allowed to flourish on social media, I’m glad some steps have been taken to curb it. Just rather funny that a figure of speech triggers those algorithms but content that implies Covid is just a cold or the flu does not.

I could ‘recant’, but I won’t. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll see the funny side.

Meeks


Friendly Jordies – Blood water

This should be a must-watch video for every Australian because Australia is the driest continent on Earth, and water is life, our life:

Illegal harvesting of flood plain water in the northern part of the country is killing off the food production located in the south. And who benefits? A few very rich individuals and some multinationals that play with our water as if it were the stock market:

I knew some of this from the Four Corners report that aired in 2017:

https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/pumped/8727826

But Four Corners had to be a little…circumspect. The people in the Friendly Jordie documentary pull no punches. Our water is being stolen to enrich a few people and organisations. The theft of our water is being facilitated by politicians in the National Party, which is part of the Coalition currently in charge of politics at the national level.

Think this only affects a few small communities in the back of whoop whoop? Wrong. All of us city people will be affected too…when food becomes more and more expensive. By then though, it will be much too late.

Please! Watch this video and pass it on to others. The corruption has to be stopped, and we’re the only ones who can ultimately stop it.

My thanks to @RonniSalt from Twitter for pointing me at this Friendly Jordies video.

Cheers
Meeks


“You are NOT a visual learner”

The take home message from this video is that there is no…noNO research that backs up the claims made for ‘learning styles’. Most people learn best when they are provided with a kind of multi-media presentation – visual, auditory, and reading. And, of course, in some subjects, kinetic [doing] is vital.

I’ve long been critical of education theories in general because they’re airy fairy at best and actually harmful at worst. Pigeon holing students as this type of learner or that, denies them the full range of information which might make something ‘click’.

As teachers, we are performers whose task it is to engage the audience. And students are that audience. Yes, it’s exhausting, but without that engagement there will be no learning.

I qualified as a secondary school teacher back in the 70’s so I have no idea what teacher training is like now, but if I had my way, I’d recruit teachers from amongst the acting community. From that base, I’d then teach them the other skills teachers need. And I’d recognize their unique skills and dedication by paying them what they’re worth. Only then will the best and brightest teach the movers and shakers of the future.

Not-so-humble
Meeks


Internode & Vodaphone, a match made in hell

Trigger warning: major rant ahead.

I’ll start by saying that I have been with Internode [broadband ISP] for a very long time, maybe as long as ten years. In all that time I’ve always been 100% satisfied with both the product and the customer service.

Like most customers though, I paid absolutely no attention to Internode’s internal business, so I had no idea it had ‘partnered’ with Vodaphone [mobile network provider] until the screen on the Offspring’s mobile phone broke.

As both our phones are the cheapest smartphones money can buy, it was cheaper to buy a brand new phone than attempt to have the broken screen replaced. So the Offspring bought a new smartphone from Amazon.com.au. It arrived within 48 hours. Colour me amazed. Unfortunately, our good luck ended there.

After unpacking and decontaminating everything, I spent over an hour getting the old SIM card out of the broken phone. I’m pretty handy with tools but this damn SIM simply did not want to ‘slip out’. And of course, I was scared of getting tough with it in case I accidentally damaged it.

Long story short, I finally got the old SIM card out only to discover that it was miles too big for the new phone…

<<cue expletives deleted>>

So…I hopped onto my mobile phone and rang Internode [our mobile phone accounts are also with Internode, kinda]. I discovered that since moving our mobile phones to Internode, the company had left Optus [one of the major mobile network providers here in Australia] and moved to Vodaphone [another network provider]. Just as an aside, according to the Internode person, Internode ‘bought’ Vodaphone so they could have a mobile network of their own. According to the Vodaphone customer support person I spoke to today, Internode is only ‘partnering’ with Vodaphone.

<<whatever….>>

Still with me? Maybe grab a cup of coffee or a stiff drink; things are about to get a lot worse.

So…me to support: “The SIM card won’t fit.”

Support to me: “We can’t send you a new SIM card because your accounts are with Optus and we can’t source SIMs from Optus any more.”

Me to support: “What?”

Support to me: “The only way we can do it is if the account is ‘moved’ over to Vodaphone with a new plan. Then we can send you a new SIM from Vodaphone.”

This ‘move’ would prove to be $5 cheaper than our current plans, but only for 6 months. After that, the cost would become $5 more expensive than the current plan.

<<cue sigh>>

As getting to this point had already taken over a week, I authorised the change and waited for the new SIM card to arrive. It took a week and only arrived today. So all up, the Offspring has been without a phone for over two weeks. That’s meant we’ve had to share my mobile phone because we no longer have a landline.

<<cue another sigh>>

But at least the new SIM finally arrived, right?

The documentation that came with the SIM said that it had to be activated online. Fine, I login, get to the relevant screen and discover that step 1 of the activation process is that an activation code will be sent, via SMS, to the OLD PHONE. The phone that’s broken. The phone that triggered this whole mess in the first place.

<<What. The. Fuck?>>

Apologies, but I did warn you. 😦

So…I get on the phone to the support number written on the documentation and eventually get put through to someone we’ll call ‘Mary’. After explaining everything I outlined above, I told Mary that there had to be some other way of activating the new SIM.

After looking up the procedure manual [???], Mary said that no, there was no other way: the activation code had to be sent to the old SIM card to verify ownership of the phone.

<<cue tearing out of hair>>

Me to support: “But the phone is broken!

Support to me: “Could you put the SIM into another phone?”

<<cue grinding of teeth, loudly>>

The only other phone capable of taking the Offspring’s old SIM is mine. Unfortunately, getting the SIM out of the Samsung Galaxy J2Pro is bloody hard. You can’t just ‘slide’ it out. It’s in waaaaay too tight. I had to use a pin to dislodge it, then I had to use a pair of tweezers to get it all the way out. But I finally did it.

<<cue intense relief>>

The new ‘nano’ SIM is finally in the new Nokia 2720 Flip Phone, and we are a two phone family once more, but I’d like to say a word to Nokia about the phone: Getting SIM cards in and out looks easy until you actually try it. I wasted yet another hour attempting to ‘lock’ in the nano SIM card. The mechanism doesn’t ‘just’ slide.

I know it’s the cheapest phone in the Nokia stable, but for godsake, can’t you design something better? This is basic stuff.

And finally, before I end this rant, there are a few more things I’d like to say. The first is about the Vodaphone network:

  • outsourcing tech support to countries with a much lower minimum wage may be cost effective, but when that tech support consists of people reading off a script, or out of the procedures manual, the quality of the support is generally terrible.

The second thing I’d like to say is to Internode.

Guys, your support has always been excellent on broadband. It’s why I’ve been such a loyal customer. But on mobiles? Not good.

I now know that tech support for the mobile network is Vodaphone’s responsibility, but I bet most Internode customers don’t know that. I know I didn’t. All we know is that when we ring up for tech support [on mobiles] the quality plummets. If this keeps happening, Vodaphone won’t be the company blamed; it’ll be Internode. This is a problem you have to fix… somehow.

Okay, to all my online friends, thanks for letting me rant. I do feel a bit better now. 🙂

Meeks


Pet Circle – Buyer Beware!

This warning applies to https://www.petcircle.com.au/

As the name implies, Pet Circle provides all sorts of products for your pet. I made one purchase, ages ago, via the Pet Circle online store. As far as I was concerned, this was a one time purchase. Imagine my surprise when I checked my emails this morning and found this:

I knew I had not set up any kind of recurring purchase so at first I thought the email was one of those awful scams we all have to live with. I would have deleted the email out of hand if not for all the personal information that a scammer would not have known:

When I logged into the Pet Circle website and had a look at my account, I found an option about Auto Delivery that I’m sure I didn’t see when I made my one and only purchase:

I cancelled the auto delivery and rang the company. I was told that there was different pricing for one off sales and auto delivery sales. I’m damn careful with my money so you can believe me when I say I was not aware of this AT ALL.

The person I spoke to at Pet Circle said something along the lines of ‘it can be confusing’. Yes, it can.

You can see from the bit I circled at the top of the previous screenshot that it is not at all clear that the discounted prices are contingent on signing up for the auto delivery.

In fact, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there was no ‘signing’ up involved at all.

I am no lawyer so there may well be some kind of legal ‘thing’ whereby if you accept a certain price, you are accepting certain terms and conditions that go with it. I assume this is the legal grounds on which the Pet Circle auto delivery function operates.

But…if a customer effectively agrees to an ongoing ‘direct debit’ on their account, that should be made very clear, multiple times before the customer makes that purchase. There should never be any confusion about a direct debit. Direct debits give the company access to your bank account. This is dangerous stuff and should never be entered into lightly.

What bothers me the most is that I’m soooo careful with my money and with everything to do with online security, yet if I had followed my first instinct and deleted the Pet Circle email as a scam, I would not have known about the transaction until a) an unwanted purchase landed on my doorstep, and b) my account was debited with an amount I could ill afford to lose.

This is the first time I’ve personally come across this kind of ‘confusion’, but I can’t help wondering how many other online companies are doing much the same thing? When you buy online, please read all the fine print and do NOT leave your credit cards details with any merchant unless you are absolutely sure that you want to give them access to your bank account.

I’m okay. Make sure that you’re okay too, now and into the future.

Not even a little bit happy,
Meeks


What is wrong with us?

This is the sentence that horrified me just moments ago:

Iowa Woman Admits to Hitting Children With Car Because of Their Ethnicity

It’s not click-bait. It’s real, and that makes it a million times worse.

The article is written by online blogging friend, Jill Dennison. You can find the full details, including the official statement by authorities, here https://jilldennison.com/2021/04/24/71725/

Be warned though, the account is chilling because the ‘Iowa Woman’ deliberately targeted two separate kids at two separate locations.

As a mother, I cannot conceive of any act more brutal, more evil. But the aftermath, sickened me almost as much:

‘What I don’t understand … this woman who attempted to murder children because she didn’t like the colour of their skin … is handled by law enforcement with kid gloves, while in North Carolina, a 68-year-old Black grandmother was dragged out of her car by her hair, slammed to the ground by police, stepped on, treated so brutally that she suffered a torn rotator cuff (part of the shoulder joint) … for exceeding the speed limit.’

And similar acts of brutality are being carried out, by police, right here in Australia. Against people whose

skin.

is.

not.

white.

What is wrong with us?

Meeks


WP Media Library – ‘Uploaded to’??

I’m not usually stumped by what appears to be a common ‘feature’ in WordPress, but I’ve just found one that has me utterly baffled.

This is a screenshot of the Media Library as accessed from the Dashboard:

I have the view set to ‘list’ instead of ‘grid’, but the column heading of ‘Uploaded to’ doesn’t mean ‘this picture was inserted into XX post’ because most of my pictures are shown as ‘Unattached’, despite the fact that I know they were inserted into posts.

The blue ‘Attach’ option doesn’t do what I thought it should either – i.e. it doesn’t insert a saved picture file /into/ a post. I actually tried it out and when you select the ‘Attach’ option, you’re given a list of posts to attach the picture file to:

But…selecting a post and clicking ‘Select’ does NOT place the image into the post. I tried. It doesn’t do anything that’s visually obvious. The only thing that changes is that for that file, ‘Attach’ changes to ‘Detach’.

I tried searching for an explanation of what the ‘Uploaded to’ column means, or what the ‘Attach’ option is meant to do, but found only programming type gobbledegook that sounded as if it had nothing to do with inserting a picture into a post.

To save /my/ sanity. Does anyone out there know what this is all about? -cough- In plain English?

Meeks


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