Last year, Jeff Bezos dethroned Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. I guess that’s what happens when you own Amazon.com, eh?
Kidding aside, there’s no doubt that we’re living in the e-commerce age. Us introverts who shun society by working remotely rejoice in this, especially.
If I need to replenish my body wash or replace a pair of shoes, for instance, I just open up an app on my phone. And a few hours or days later, *poof!* The stuff arrives at my doorstep. Who needs to interact with nosy salespeople or risk bumping into an acquaintance, right?
The Perils of Online Shopping: Forgetting About That Free Trial Deadline
Unfortunately, e-commerce’s convenience isn’t always without strings. You’ve heard of free trials, yes?
Bezos’ Amazon PRIME is a great illustration. You sign up for a 30-day free trial and in exchange, you get free 2-day shipping throughout the month. Once the trial period is up, however, you’ll automatically get charged for membership.
Okay, fair enough. But what if you forgot about your free trial and it lapses? If that happens, you could be burdened with an unexpected charge on your credit card statement. Recurring ones too, if getting out of the membership proves difficult.
As it turns out, this situation isn’t uncommon. In the US alone, the Better Business Bureau receives thousands of customer complaints on the subject. In fact, such lapses happen so frequently that the US Federal Trade often issues warnings against them and even facilitates a complaints hotline.
How A Major Credit Card Company Is Trying to Protect Its Clients
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with free trials. They are a legitimate way for companies to test out new products or services. Plus, they’re great for letting customers try those out for free before they commit to them.
The thing is, most credit card holders lead busy adult lives. Some of us barely remember to pay our credit card bills on time, let alone that a free trial might be lapsing soon. And come on, no one likes getting slapped with an unexpected, recurring expense as a result.
Thus, a certain credit card company is seeking to change this. (Clue: Its name starts with “M” and ends with “astercard.”) The US financial giant has introduced new rules for merchants that offer free trials:
- They need to send cardholders a fresh reminder about their first, post-free trial charge.
- The said message should contain instructions for canceling the membership and the charge, should the buyer want to do so.
- Merchants must also send out reminders for all recurring transactions in the future.
The said company’s clients will also find the merchants’ contact information on their billing statements. This should help them get in touch with the said parties to follow up on mystery charges, if any.
Now if only other tech-savvy retailers and payment platforms would follow suit.