Be Sure….Before You Subscribe To
The Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints each year from consumers who have unknowingly purchased multiyear magazine subscriptions. Unscrupulous telemarketers sometimes trick consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for multiyear subscriptions to magazines they don't want or can't afford. Oftentimes, the presentations are so slick that consumers aren't even aware that they have bought several magazine subscriptions until they receive the bill. When a telephone salesperson offers a package of magazines for a few dollars a week, it may sound like a real bargain. Yet the deal may include inflated prices and subscriptions stretching over several years.
If you're contacted by a magazine telemarketer:
Deceptive Sales Tactics: Sales techniques vary. Question these approaches:
•A postcard that says nothing about magazine subscriptions but asks you to call a telephone number about a contest, prize, or sweepstakes entry. If you call, you may get information about contest prizes or drawing dates — but it turns into a sales pitch for magazine subscriptions.
• Sales people who don't identify themselves as such or who may not give you the name of their company. They may lead you to believe they represent major credit card companies or magazine publishers, or that they are calling for purposes other than selling subscriptions.
• Sales people who encourage you to purchase without giving you total costs. For example, a salesperson may offer magazines for just a few dollars a week. This may sound like a bargain until you do the math. You could be paying hundreds of dollars for subscriptions that sell elsewhere for less.
• Sales people who tell you magazines are "free" or "pre-paid" for you and that you'll only be charged a "processing fee." The fee may be more than the retail price of the magazine subscription.
• Companies that say they're "approved" or "regulated" by the federal, state, or local government. No government agency approves or endorses such operations.
The Telemarketing Sales Rule:
The FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule requires certain disclosures and prohibits misrepresentations. It gives you the power to stop unwanted telemarketing calls and gives state law enforcement officers the authority to prosecute fraudulent telemarketers who operate across state lines. Under the FTC’s rule, you may cancel any order within three days of the receipt of the agreement.
Although there's no federal law governing cancellation of telephone agreements, certain state and local laws require telemarketers to provide a cancellation period. However, many magazine subscription companies do not honor verbal cancellations. To make sure your cancellation notice is honored, it's best to submit it in writing and within a certain time period.
If you want to cancel a subscription you've purchased over the phone, take the following steps:
• Watch your mail for the sales agreement; it may come in a plain or "junk mail" type envelope. Look for the cancellation terms; cancellation usually is allowed within three days of your receipt of the agreement. The cancellation notice may be hard to find; often it's attached to an inside page of multiple copies of the sales agreement.
• Sign the cancellation notice and return it to the proper address. That may be hard to find, because several addresses may be listed. Send the notice by certified or registered mail, so you have proof of your mailing date. If you can't send the notice by certified mail, make a photocopy of the signed and dated notice for your records.
• When you send the cancellation notice, contact your bank or credit card company to stop any unauthorized payments from your account or to dispute any charges or debits to your account.
• The company may tell you that your cancellation request was too late and that you must pay. Check with your state Attorney General to find out what cancellation rights you may have under state law.
• If the cancellation period expired and you paid in full, the company may not be required to refund your money. If you don't make proper payments on time, you could get dunning notices and calls from collection agencies, threats of legal action, or a bad credit rating.
Where To Go For Help:
The BBB suggests that before you purchase a magazine subscription, check the reliability of the firm offering the promotion. If you think you've been victimized by a magazine subscription scam, contact the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.
You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Although the FTC does not intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission. Visit www.ftc.gov for more information.
In addition, you can contact the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC), a project of the National Consumers League. You can reach NFIC at 1-800-876-7060 or www.fraud.org.
This information is general in nature and is not intended as a reliability report on any company, product, or service.