Avoiding Auto Renew Gotcha

Tammy Y. Allen, Director, Marketing & Programs, The NIIC
Photo by Nicole De Khors, Burst

What to do with a bad experience? Learn from it, share it and resolve to do better. I am a self-proclaimed positive realist. My rose-colored glasses are tempered with a healthy coating of reality.

I do not air dirty laundry. It doesn’t align with how I choose to live. Yet, when I experienced auto renewal gotcha from a national media monitoring service we use at The NIIC, I decided I had to share it with you. It may help to save you from a similar experience. This is especially important with the growing prevalence of online, auto renew services for consumers and businesses alike.

  1. Read the fine print…multiple times. I read everything before signing a document. I knew there was an auto renew clause in the agreement. I did not recall it kicked in 60 days before the conclusion of our first year of service. The fine print is not part of the renewal notice. It IS part of the lengthy, online narrative of the media monitoring company’s website, though.

“To make renewal as easy as possible for our customers, this Agreement includes an automatic renewal…If we don’t receive your written cancellation at least 60 days before the end of the term, you agree to the renewal.”

  1. Plan for renewal. Guess what’s on my calendar three months before our media monitoring contract end date? A reminder—in this case, to confirm cancellation (again) in writing. I communicated my cancellation/non-renewal of service at the same time as confirming my current year renewal.
  2. Heed red flags. Women’s intuition….it serves me well when I heed it. I was impressed with the service offering and should have heeded the red flags.
  • Aggressive sales tactics—high pressure, time-sensitive special offers—although offered multiple times.
  • Accelerated invoicing—e.g., invoice emailed August 14, back-dated August 8, including an August 22 due date for a contract set to renew October 3. Confused? I know the feeling! The NIIC prides itself on prompt invoice payment, exceeding industry standards. This was insulting.
  • Aggressive accounts receivable practices – my account representative shared that their accounts receivable team has close rate goals similar to the sales team. A few examples of aggressive practices include badgering—between August 14 (date invoice was emailed to me) and August 27—six emails were sent to me to follow up on payment (almost one each business day). This was despite my response within 24 hours of the initial email. An unsolicited, overnight shipping label was emailed to our accounting department to send our payment. Then, there was the threat of turning our company in to a collections service.
  1. Beware inflated renewal rate. Be sure your renewal rate is the agreed upon rate. Ours was not—it was inflated. Insist upon a revised invoice honoring your agreed upon rate.

Undecided? If you are still unsure of using an annual service—especially if there is an auto renew clause—pause. Take time to make the right decision. In my case, a search of this company through the Better Business Bureau would have informed me of 26 complaints against this company. This information certainly would have impacted my decision.

Also, check with your friends and those in your network to see what they know about the company. Read online reviews and check with the Better Business Bureau. It’s a good source of information and a partner for addressing business complaints.


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