Beware online shopping clubs that trap you in hard-to-quit subscriptions

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Columbia House Record Club rises again.


late cyberage capitalismly 2.0…


Use a “virtual account number”, a temporary limited-use account number used for online or phone transactions only. If you can’t cancel the subscription, cancel the virtual card number.

Citi offers them and I assume other banks do too.


This sort of scam has ended up requiring a change in bank regulation in the UK.

Banks now have to accept an instruction from the customer to cancel any recurring payment that has been set up on a credit or debit card.


I wonder if this would result in being sent to collections?


Had this problem with Compuserve. Signed up online, but had to call to cancel. Finally got thru early Sunday morning. You have to listen to several offers before you can finally cancel SirriusXM, and again it has to be done on the phone. Not to mention that over a year later I still get mail to join back up.


Related: beware any credit card issued by Comenity Bank. If you had a Toyota credit card prior to last fall that you were very happy with, be aware that Toyota has transferred the card to Comenity.

It’ll probably take you several months, possibly some spurious fees, and a lot of phone calls and snail mail, so the sooner you start trying to fight your way out, the better.

Partial list of store credit cards backed by Comenity here.

Discover does not–tried setting one up last year.

Used to be that credit card holders would contest any payment at the cardholder’s request, but I’ve had mixed success with that method. One win (CC company said, “Yeah, okay, payment canceled.”), one loss (CC company said, “Yeah tough shit, here’s some fine print for you to peruse until you find your wallet and pay up”).

This is why I only use pre-paid VISA cards. These are available at most grocery and drug stores here in Canada.

Sure, you pay $4 service fee to cover all the purchases on that card. (Which probably less than a regular VISA fees regardless.) But pre-pay a $200 card, and in the event of fraud or an Adore Me type scam you’re never liable for more that $200 total. Less even, considering you’ll probably already have legitimate purchases on the card.

I read recently that not all UK banks are handling these requests properly every time, however, Purplecat is correct. This is based on the EU’s Payment Services Directive.

As a UK consumer you have the right to cancel any “recurring” debit or credit card payments directly with the bank, whether you’ve tried to cancel with the retailer or not. The bank will likely recommend that you also cancel with the retailer (generally good advice), but they can’t insist that you do.

If you cancelled with the retailer, but find that they’re still taking payments (or you’re worried that they might), follow the bank’s cancellation process as well, and inform them of the date that you cancelled with the retailer. The bank is obliged to refund any unauthorised payments made, even if it’s just your word that you cancelled with the retailer on such-and-such date. (It wouldn’t hurt to do it in writing and keep a copy if you’ve got a particularly awkward company taking payments.)

[Direct debits, where you’ve given the retailer your sort-code and account number, rather than your long card number, are even easier to cancel with the bank than recurring debit/credit card payments, and again you have the right to get the bank to refund you any unauthorised payments.]


Came to say exactly that. This scam is not new at all. The only thing new is the whiz-bang internet.


Ugh. Any site that wants me to enter personal information before I can even browse gets a big NOPE from me.


Sounds like girls gone wild…or so I heard, back in the day.

Also @RogerStrong, FWIW, Shitibank offers virtual account numbers for just such an occasion. They can be limited by dollars or months, and never last more than a year. I always use them when paying govt parking fees, cause Lord knows their IT security can’t be relied on.


Beware online shopping clubs that trap you in hard-to-quit subscriptions


I’m going to start an app called Sueable. It allows multiple people with the same complaint to find each other and a lawyer.


That’s a class action I can get behind.

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Unfortunately, according to my twee-vanity-URL startup, almost every potential user of Sueable is already contractually committed to grotesquely asymmetric binding arbitration with the entities most worthy of being sued into smoking rubble…

It’s … slightly bizarre … that a direct instruction from the customer to stop future payments would need extra legislation to make it work.

Right on, great idea. I am going to look into this. A one time card number would set my mind at ease once in a while.