Sign Up For Yahoo Voice And Receive A $74.95 Charge From Yahoo Personals

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.

Beware Yahoo Personals’ deceptive billing policy [ZDNet]
Thing is, Yahoo!, you harvested and used my Visa number without my permission [ZDNet]

Comments

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  1. Parting says:

    ”He assumed his account was cancelled” Ugh, don’t assume, cancel. Probably his subscription was on ”automatic renewals” as in user terms & agreement.

    Purely user’s fault.

  2. the-wanderer says:

    Wow, wait till he finds out that Yahoo voice sucks. Horrible latency, and constant break-ups in conversations, even with a very high-speed connection..

    He’s gonna be even more pissed about that…

  3. DallasDMD says:

    Egg on your face, Yahoo. I wonder what the customer service droid has to say when you tell them “No thanks, my bank has reversed the charges”.

  4. Buran says:

    @chouchou: He didn’t renew, thus the charge wasn’t authorized. He was right to hit them with the chargeback fee.

  5. crazypants says:

    Does anyone know offhand if there is a real danger of having a company such as Yahoo report your ‘debt’ to an outside collection agency after you successfully do a chargeback?

    I ask because I’m in a similar situation wherein I had to do a chargeback in order to receive a refund that was due to me and that the company refused to process.

    Now they’re threatening to report said debt to a collection agency since the chargeback occurred, I was under the impression that they could not do this, but am I perhaps mistaken… Could performing a chargeback in these situations really result in a ding on your credit report?

    If they legally and legitimately can, then everyone who touts chargebacks as being the defacto standard to resolving sticky situations such as these should really attach the disclaimer that it can come back to haunt you and potentially harm your credit score.

  6. newtonite says:

    Yes, of course a chargeback doesn’t relieve one of their obligation to pay. It only means it’s not being paid by a charge card.

  7. Buran says:

    @crazypants: I subscribe to FineScale Modeler magazine, published by Kalmbach Publishing Co. I used to subscribe to Model Railroader as well (same publisher) but since I didn’t think I’d have time to actually do much with that hobby (and no room), I decided to cancel the susbscription. I too get reminders (in the mail, since I refused to let them send me email ads). I too have ignored them. The situation here would be like my resubbing to FSM with a new credit card instead of the one I used last time, and the publisher re-subbing me to MR and charging the subscription fee to my card without authorization.

    How could they put such an unauthorized debt on your credit report? You’ve filed the dispite with your credit card issuer, which isn’t going to report that to the bureaus unless it gets reversed on investigation (unlikely).

    If you do get harassed by an agency, send a dispute/drop-dead letter since you don’t legally owe a debt at this point. If the chargeback was supported by your bank, you’re in the clear. They had their chance to prove the chargeback wrong in the investigation the banks always launch.

  8. Buran says:

    @newtonite: Except, he didn’t authorize this; it’s like my magazine example. He didn’t order the service, so Yahoo was the debtor. They can’t claim they’re owed a debt for something that wasn’t asked for.

  9. hn333 says:

    If Yahoo Personals worked he wouldn’t have cancelled it.

  10. cosby says:

    @Buran:

    I’m not sure he didn’t authorize it. It sounds like he never cancelled the serivce correctly which is I’m guessing a service that autorenews untill you do cancel it. If he didn’t cancel it and it does autorenew then they had every right to take the money from the other card as soon as he gave it to them. That 3-Day Cancellation period is a joke though.

    If you don’t cancel something or at least make a reasonable effort to(ignoring the emails that prob said they would auto renew him is not a reasonable effort to cancell) then why blame them.

    From the info given it sounds like this guy is at fault.

  11. Buran says:

    @cosby: Yup, the blame the victim crowd comes out. I was afraid I’d have to point this out. Notice that he got notices begging him to renew, not notices saying “we tried to charge your card, it was expired, please submit payment” or otherwise demanding money. If it was an autorenew he’d have gotten demands, not repeated beggings to re-subscribe.

    From the info given it sounds like Yahoo is at fault.

  12. bohemian says:

    Most legit subscriptions will just shut down your service for non-payment if your 30 days unpaid. That would leave you only owing for that one month. It seems a bit questionable for a service to keep adding subscriptions on and on if they are going unpaid and your not allowed access to it. They should have shut down access after 30 – 60 days of non payment. It sounds like just a way to create an excuse to try to extract money out of people.

  13. Though Russell’s bank is willing to help him recover the lost funds, yours may not be as forgiving.

    If you have Chase, this goes ESPECIALLY for you.

  14. Buran says:

    @Papa Midnight: … Except for the fact that he paid via credit card and federal law requires that they refund the money, technically the amount over $50 but fortunately I don’t know of any cards that don’t return it all AND hit the offender with a large fee.

  15. LikeYourFace says:

    @crazypants: Honestly people, am I the only one who actually reads what’s published here? If one company disputes a chargeback it’s between them and your credit card company, and not going to ruin your credit.

  16. ShadowFalls says:

    He did the right thing here, the charge back. Yahoo had no authorization for that transaction and yet it did it anyway.

    Clearly he shouldn’t have assumed his account was just canceled, it was a mistake on his part and I am sure he realizes it. You have to be more careful when you deal with companies who want nothing but your money.

    This should be an open and shut case with his credit card company.

  17. Murph1908 says:

    @hn333:
    Think about that for a second. If Yahoo Personals worked, he would have canceled it, since it would no longer be needed. =)

  18. sleze69 says:

    @Papa Midnight: Which is why you should make as many purchases as possible with your Amex card.

  19. hexychick says:

    This guy is totally in the wrong. Speaking from experience, Yahoo Personals has a notice right when you sign up that that it will auto-renew and it is YOUR responsibility to cancel it before it renews. The cancellation is incredibly easy and takes under a minute. You even get a confirmation of cancellation email within 24 hours. You can’t just assume it’s going to cancel itself just because you stopped using the service either. I have no sympathy for someone who can’t take 30 seconds to cancel a membership online or call someone.

    • Anonymous says:

      @hexychick:
      They do have it hidden under the wallet. Even after calling and cancelling they charged me for another year.
      I even have confirmation number from previous cancellation.

      I wouldn’t say I have no sympathy for people who think every situation is simple. Just because you didn’t have any problem cancelling, doesn’t mean every one else doesn’t run in into issues.

      Did you ever call their customer service for cancellation?
      Their customer service reps don’t have all the permissions to go into Yahoo! wallet. If you deleted your e-mail, there are some issues they would encounter. Also, they would have problem cancelling if your card has changed and was re-issued.

      Before writing a nasty comment see if you are making any assumptions that may not apply in every case.

  20. who uses online personals anymore with Craigslist around?

  21. TurboWagon00 says:

    @Petrarch1603: People who want to filter their results rather than wade through dozens of “Diskreet Incounters” ads (mispelling intentional).

  22. theblackdog says:

    @Buran: I’m going to disagree because the guy kept on saying he let it “lapse,” he never actually said he went and cancelled the service. Yahoo Personals makes it pretty clear that once you sign up, they will keep auto-billing you until you essentially put in writing that you are done with the service and not to charge your credit card anymore.

    I will agree that Yahoo pulled a fast one by charging his credit card when he signed up for another service, but it’s customer error that helped create this problem.

    It also illustrates the point that you need to get it in writing that any service that is auto-billed is truly canceled. I still have the E-mail confirming that I canceled match.com recently just in case I get a charge in March.

  23. Buran says:

    @theblackdog: Again, why was he asked to reopen his account by Yahoo instead of being told his payment was overdue? That’s what you get when you close an account with a company and they want you back, not what you get when payment is due.

  24. vastrightwing says:

    plentyoffish.com is free

  25. RokMartian says:

    I had a similar problem with Yahoo Music Unlimited. My subscription was going to renew and I received numerous emails from them, because the card on file was expired and if I did not do anything, then my account would be cancelled. Cool – I figured I didn’t have to do a thing to cancel it.

    Unfortunately, they somehow were able to get a new charge through, so I called to cancel 2 days after the renewal and they refused to give me a refund, because I had to do it *before* the auto-renewal. I talked to the supervisor, was refused and there was no one higher to talk to. I told them I was going to talk to my bank about a charge back, a complaint to the BBB and oh yeah, I’m going to email consumerist.com. The “supervisor” said that was my prerogative and have a good day.

    The next day, I got an email from Yahoo saying they decided to refund my money.

  26. RokMartian says:

    @cosby:
    Having dealt with Yahoo before on a similar situation (see above), I am confident that the email stated clearly that the account would be cancelled automatically if he did not update his cc information.

  27. crazypants says:

    @Buran: I don’t think that the company itself would put something on my credit report, but rather they’d just funnel the debt off to their ‘accounts receivable department’ where it would be treated like any other unpaid debt and rolled in along with all the other outstanding debts they have when they outsource said debts to a third party collection agency.

    Thats certainly what their accounts receivable rep is threatening to do anyway…

    Furthermore, I’ve done numerous google searches on the subject and I’m able to turn up a slew of ‘collection agencies’ that tout their ability to recoup money lost through chargebacks!

    So either these collection agents are doing something shady, or it really is legal to send a debt to a collection agency after a chargeback has occurred…

    I’d love to find out I’m mistaken, but it doesn’t really look like it thus far.

    Oh, and the Visa TOS that the retailer has to abide by merely prohibits them from re-charging your card for the same debt that you had successfully charged back, but it doesn’t say anything about them not being able to legally pursue said debt through other avenues.

    Does anyone know of any particular law or anything that they could cite here which proves its illegal (and not just unethical) for a company to outsource a chargedback debt to a collection agency?

  28. nutrigm says:

    wow this guy is a tech-guru?

  29. Anonymous says:

    Yahoo! Personals billing and cancellation is a fraud. I went through similar situation with Yahoo.
    First, they hide their customer support number for billing.

    Second, they make it very difficult and confusing to unsubscribe.

    Third, even after cancelling the service they charge in the hope that customers wont complain.

    Guess, the Web-Analytics experts still haven’t figured out how to come up with an un-subscribe page. Yahoo! must have used evil Web Anlytics professionals to make sure this is one Exit Page they don’t want customers leaving the website from. If they did so, they did succeed. However, I am not sure how many customers are actually frustrated and would never singup agin.

    With all the developers on Yahoo Developer Network, I would assume, this is not for the lack of sills or effort. It is just plain greed and to earn money at any cost.

    In the past I have had a very good opinion of Yahoo! But, recent billing and deceptive charges on my card has eroded that opinion. I would take any oppurtunity to comment or criticize Yahoo!’s billing and cancellation policies.

    I searched on google for similar incidents and found Russel Shaw’s article. This page on the consumerist website comes up in page 6. There are many customers complaining about problem they faced with your billing and cancellation. But not many on a consumer site like these.

    P.S.: Dear Consumerist, why is the post comment box so small? Doesn’t it not erode your argument (as you say in your comments FAQ) that you want high quality comments?