Easy to sign up, difficult to cancel — NJ may target auto-renew purchases
Are you still seeing money come out of your bank account on a regular basis for a service you don't need? Or one that you didn't know would require a monthly or yearly charge?
To many people, it may be easier to just pay that fee, rather than go through the trouble of trying to figure out how to make it stop.
New Jersey lawmakers are considering a proposal to crack down on businesses with auto-renewal items that may not be totally clear with customers before a purchase is made — either purposely or unknowingly.
"They make it very easy to sign up for things and very hard to cancel," Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, said during an Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee hearing on Monday.
Moriarty, chair of the committee, said the impact on consumers is even greater when a product is offered at a "teaser rate" that grows over time.
The panel used about 30 minutes of their hearing to discuss legislation that would create strict rules for businesses that make automatic renewal or continuous service offers.
Under the bill, terms of the offer would have to spelled out clearly before a purchase is made. This includes any "free trials" that may end up turning into monthly billings when the trial runs out. The business would have to obtain the consumer's consent to an agreement that includes auto-renew payments.
In addition, consumers would have to be provided with an easy mechanism for cancellation — a toll-free telephone number or email address, for example. If the auto-renew purchase is made online, a consumer will need to have the ability to terminate the continuous service online.
Chances are the legislation will be amended before it ever gets a committee vote. Representatives from different sectors voiced their concerns that the bill touches on certain areas that are already heavily regulated, such as insurance.
Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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