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Recurring Nightmare

Many of us pay our bills with automatic withdrawals, which is OK, as long as you are fairly comfortable with corporations accessing your bank account or credit cards. I still like to pay my utility bills as they come in, but I must admit, I have pre-authorized several companies to take annual fees from my credit card.

This was never an issue and worked well. I have numerous small bills, such as Netflix, Adobe, Go Daddy and other ongoing payments. The thought of constantly having to do e-transfers or write dozens of small cheques is a burden I may not be able to handle successfully.

To date, I have never had a problem, and even when I purchase annual subscriptions, I monitor the renewal dates religiously. That is, until recently. Negative billing is a practice some companies now employ. It simply means, when you purchase an annual subscription, it will renew unless you tell them otherwise. This practice has been in place for many years, and, if I remember correctly, it was Rogers who pioneered the concept at least 25 years ago.

So, where did my recent issue begin? I have been dealing with a company for six years. It is a software giant, and I use its product as part of my TV show. The annual bill was $135 and has been since I have been with them. Their service is great, and it suits my needs perfectly.

Two weeks ago, I received a statement their new pricing has gone into effect, and my credit card has been billed $650. To say I was shocked was an understatement. In panic mode, I dug through their website but was unable to find a phone number. I emailed my concerns and waited two days. After not receiving a response, I called Visa to dispute the transaction.

I finally heard from the software company who explained an email that went out in March, advising of their new pricing. I searched my bin and found no such email. Finally, there it was, lost deep within my spam folder. I responded to the email explaining I did not receive their note and certainly did not want the ‘new’ service. I contacted Visa and asked them to hold off pursuing the claim.

It has taken two weeks and a great deal of grovelling. Finally, the company agreed to credit my account and strike me from their customer list. You could hear my sigh of relief clear across the country. You want to talk about learning a lesson.

I will admit, I still have recurring payments in place, but now I have them all listed on a spreadsheet, with a two-week reminder in my calendar for the renewal date. I have learned my lesson and thankfully came out on top this time.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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