Yahoo Personals surprised technology guru Russell Shaw with a charge for $74.95 when he signed up for Yahoo Voice. Russell had let his subscription to Yahoo Personals lapse last February and ignored Yahoo’s repeated entreaties to renew his membership. He assumed his account was cancelled, told his credit card company not to authorize any new charges, and did not inform Yahoo when he lost his credit card last May.
When Russell handed over his new credit card information to buy $10 worth of minutes with Yahoo Voice in October, Yahoo hit him with the outstanding charges for Yahoo Personals.
Here is what happened: Yahoo, as one big friendly internet company, does not firewall its services from one another. The bill comes from Yahoo, not Yahoo Personals. As soon as they received updated billing information, they charged the full remaining balance to the new credit card.
Yahoo didn’t care that Russell hadn’t used their services for over half a year or that he removed his profile. They refused to vacate the charges:
Unfortunately, since the 3-Day Cancellation period has passed, we can no longer issue a full refund.
However, since your service with us is still active and has not been cancelled, I’m pleased to inform you that you are eligible to downgrade your subscription from Semi-annual to Monthly.
Downgrading will enable you to receive a refund for the unused months. If you cancel your subscription at this point, we will be unable to provide any prorated refund. We suggest you downgrade first, so we can refund a portion of your money.
Performing Yahoo’s proposed account gymnastics would have allowed Russell to retrieve 5/6th of his money back, but he refused to accept on principle. He instead filed a chargeback with his credit card company, which considers the matter an issue of forced authorization.
Russell’s story serves as reminder to meticulously document your handling of any account tied to your credit card. Don’t let a service lapse: send an email clearly declaring your intention to bolt. Though Russell’s bank is willing to help him recover the lost funds, yours may not be as forgiving.