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Auto renewal -- when did that happen?

  1. Hi fellow CSS-upgrade users,

    I just noticed that I got an email that my CSS upgrade is going to auto-renew in a couple of weeks.

    Now I don't recall signing up for something to auto-renew.. last year the upgrade just expired and required explicit renewal. And looking back at the wp email receipt for last year's payment, it says nothing about auto-renewal. So
    this seems to be something new. According to the TOS, this feature seems to have gotten added just in Dec 2010. http://gl.wordpress.com/tos/

    So did WP just impose this auto-renewal without an explicit opt-in to charge my credit card? Because that would not be cool. I probably *would* opt in, but I sure as heck don't want random changes in TOS to all of a sudden be hitting my credit card without my OK -- hard to imagine that's even legal.

    Am I missing something?

    -- Graham

    The blog I need help with is grahamwideman.wordpress.com.

  2. Are you sure you didn't sign up to it yourself. I have the option to set auto-renewal for my domain mapping, though it is off by default. If you are sure you haven't done it yourself you should contact staff as I think something must have gone wrong.

  3. Hi tandava,

    Well, as I said, I am virtually certain that this is a feature that didn't exist last year upon my last renewal. And, like you, I too have this as an option now when I visit my account settings, which of course I can cancel.

    But the point is that vendors should not just spontaneously opt customers in for charges to credit cards. Period. Otherwise, what's to stop vendors from suddenly deciding I should pay $1000 for something I didn't agree to?

    For reference, here is the email I received a couple of days ago, which, along with the revision info on the TOS, also strongly suggests this is a new feature:
    ---------------------
    Dear Graham,
    We've made it even easier for you to keep your upgrades running with our automatic renewal service. An upgrade on your WordPress.com blog will be automatically renewed in 14 days. 'Custom CSS' renews on February 17, 2011
    If you want to cancel automatic renewal for this upgrade, please visit the Upgrades page at ... etc
    ---------------------

    So, if nobody replies to this thread with "hey, this really was something that you chose last Feb", then I think I will contact support about it.

    -- Graham

  4. I've tagged this thread for staff attention and hopefully someone will respond soon. I too think it is something that has been added recently as my upgrades have always required me to click and pay manually.

  5. Hey Graham,

    We did recently switch over from manual renewals to automatic renewals for all upgrade purchases on WordPress.com. We made this change effective at the end of December 2010. We did this to make it easier for our customers to keep their upgrades active, and based on customer feedback we’ve received that many people think of their upgrades as subscriptions, not one time purchases.

    The way the auto-renewal process works now for non-domain registration upgrades is that you’ll receive three separate email notifications before the renewal goes through, at 14 days, 5 days, and 2 days prior to the renewal. For domain registration upgrades, we will send notifications 90 days and 60 days before a domain expires, and then attempt to renew the domain 30 days before it expires (we’re aware of how important it is not to lose a registered domain, which is why we attempt to renew it 30 days in advance – that way if anything goes wrong you still have a month to renew and keep your domain). Each notification we send out contains a link that enables you to cancel automatic renewals.

    If you are automatically renewed for an upgrade you didn’t want to have continue, we’ll refund your account right away. Just contact support. (Note that domain renewals are not refundable.)

    I hope this helps to explain what’s changed.

    - Paul

  6. Hi numentity and (and thanks sacredpath),

    Yes, I fully understand that the auto renewals idea is useful, and has good intent. And I might well agree to it in future.

    However, you have confirmed that I, and presumably a year's worth of other customers, did not previously agree to buying yearly renewals, and are now to be auto billed for them, albeit with email warnings.

    So, one question: If I do nothing, and wordpress goes ahead and bills me for renewal of services -- then that charge to my credit card is based upon what authorization from me?

    So far as I can see, lack of response from me does not constitute authorization, and as a consequence such charges are illegal. Am I mistaken somehow?

    Look, I want wordpress.com to succeed. But I also want to know that vendors who have my credit card info can be trusted not to charge it for amounts I did not authorize.

    -- Graham

  7. @Graham, @numenity said this:

    Each notification we send out contains a link that enables you to cancel automatic renewals.

    All you do is click the link to cancel the automatic renewal.

    May I suggest reading the TOS, #9 about changes to the TOS, and also read #3 "automatic renewal" which according to the change log at the bottom of the TOS was added December 18, 2010.

    http://en.wordpress.com/tos/

  8. Hi Sacredpath

    As my first message states, I am well aware of the TOS, and that it was amended in Dec 2010 to include the automatic renewal, and that there is a provision to cancel the auto renewal. I am also aware that, like most TOS's it includes a provision asserting that continuing to use the service constitutes agreement to all changes to the TOS,

    Your suggested reading seems directed at the position that though I authorized only a single charge to my credit card a year ago, the TOS "agree-to-all-changes" clause makes it as though I authorize WP to charge my card whatever they like without any further authorization from me.

    I see how you arrive at that, but I find it hard to believe that it's legal to use a TOS to initiate credit card charges that the customer has not authorized. Change of rates for things, maybe. But flat out adding charges for services not explicitly requested and authorized, I'm pretty sure not.

    When I authorized the charge last year, I authorized a single charge, not a single charge plus any amount of recurring charges that might be added via the TOS at any time into the future. At least, so I thought. Indeed, why does WP even still have my credit card number on file, given that I placed a one-time order?

    -- Graham

  9. @Graham

    When I authorized the charge last year, I authorized a single charge, not a single charge plus any amount of recurring charges that might be added via the TOS at any time into the future. At least, so I thought. Indeed, why does WP even still have my credit card number on file, given that I placed a one-time order?

    TSP and myself and the others who answer questions here are not Staff. We simply point to the relevant documentation and then encourage members to contact Staff directly. http://en.wordpress.com/support/contact Please feel free to retun to this thread and let us know what the outcome is so we can bookmark the thread and have an answer for the next member who asks the same question.

  10. And actually, give the TOS and what staff have said, there isn't likely to be a change in policy. Every TOS or Terms of Use I've ever seen specifically states, "subject to change without notice" and "please view these TOS/TOU often for changes" or something to that effect.

  11. Hi timethief:

    > TSP and myself and the others who answer questions here are not Staff.

    Understood, but numenity's info does say staff, so perhaps staff will answer here. But if not, I will return if there are answers from some other channel.

    TSP: Sure, I'm aware of TOS's which say subject to change etc. And more power to them to add stuff like "hate sites not allowed" or "don't post illegal info". No problem with that.

    The problem comes when a TOS change has the effect of charging customers whose CC numbers you happen to have, for stuff they haven't authorized, instead of requesting that customers authorize purchases explicitly.

    I guess that particular scheme goes under the name of "cramming", and is described here for example: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-credit-card-cramming.htm.

    Anyhow, probably everyone at this stage gets my point, and I look forward to hearing what WP.com has to say about it.

    -- Graham

  12. I guess since there is a specific link in the email that allows you to opt out of the auto renewal, I'm not seeing the problem, but that is me. I've had several places I have accounts over the past year that have implemented auto renewals without specifically contacting me and telling me that is going to happen, but as with WP, there was a link in the notification email that I could opt out.

    Again though, these are just my thoughts on the subject, and everyone is entitled to their own feelings on the subject. I don't think this new policy is going to change though from the sounds of it.

  13. >I don't think this new policy is going to change though from the sounds of it.

    And I'm not against the policy going forward, where new customers get to opt in explicitly. I'm just against the policy of opting me in to expenses I didn't authorize.

    > I've had several places I have accounts over the past year
    > that have implemented auto renewals without specifically contacting me

    That's pretty interesting, and surprises me as much as WP's action does.

    If indeed it's legal and common practice to do this, then the lesson I would learn is to not pay for services by credit card, or to change credit card numbers regularly to avoid being caught out. That's of course a major hassle.

    Anyhow, thanks for your interesting comments.

    -- Graham

  14. I appreciate the sentiment here, I checked my upgrades and they haven't been set to auto-renew. If they had been (even though they're not due for some months) I would not be very impressed. In my opinion something like this involving billing should always be an opt-in rather than an opt-out feature. At least you noticed the email and refunds are available for those who don't!

  15. [thesacredpath and timethief: You have pointed out that you are not Staff. But this is where the topic has been brought up, where other customers may come for information, and where the Staff may be monitoring comments. It is a suitable place for a statement of dissatisfaction.]

    Some customers may appreciate the automatic renewal option, maybe even most. I do not object to the option. I do not object even to the default setting being auto when the customer begins using a service (although it would be better the other way). The notifications for those who have chosen automatic renewal are acceptable.

    But I agree with gwideman: If automatic renewal is first made available after some customers are already using the service, the initial setting for existing customers must be manual. Regardless of the legality, doing otherwise is a customer relations nightmare.

    You do not know anything about the customer. You do not know how often the customer reads their email, or whether they are on vacation, away on business, or maybe in the hospital during the period including the email and the charge; etc.

    You do not know anything about the customer's finances. You do not know how they use the account with which they paid for your services previously or whether they want to use that account next time. You do not know whether their cash flow is tight, whether your unexpected charge will cause some of their other checks to bounce, costing them money in bank fees and returned check fees, and causing embarrassment.

    I note that numenity (the one Staff member who commented to date) did not say anything about the Terms of Service; that was the non-Staff. Nonetheless this needs to be addressed. No amount of legalistic weasel talk about Terms of Service is going to cut it here. No one gave you permission to unilaterally start charging their bank accounts without their express authorization, no matter how broad and general the language of your Terms of Service.

    Your unilateral change to automatically charging customers who had not actively chosen that option ran the risk not just of inconveniencing and annoying your customers, but also of causing them actual harm, in money and reputation. In short, it was a serious breach of trust.

  16. This policy is more than a little awkward. Auto-renewals with or without opt-out clauses are ILLEGAL in British Columbia and unless I'm mistaken in the rest of Canada as well.

  17. [thesacredpath and timethief: You have pointed out that you are not Staff. But this is a bug related to the auto-renew matter. I already sent a message to "support contact" and received a non-responsive reply (see below). I am hoping that the Staff who may be monitoring this topic will be able to understand the problem.]

    After I posted the comment above, I went to the upgrade page to renew my upgrade subscriptions. Three of those subscriptions have an anniversary in February. The anniversary of the fourth is in April. Last year I renewed all of them at the same time (4 separate transactions, but all one right after the other in a few minutes). All done; forget about it till the following year.

    Yesterday, however, I was only able to renew the subscriptions with a February anniversary. The April subscription appeared on the upgrade page, but the only control available for it was a button that said "Disable Auto Renew", which I clicked because I do not want any automatic renewals; so now the only available control is a button that says "Enable Auto Renew". No way to renew the April subscription until the server decides the anniversary is close enough, by whatever criteria it uses, and provides a control for renewing.

    I sent a message through the "contact support" mechanism. This message may not be a model of clarity and I tried to fit it into the "I did, I saw, I expected" paradigm of the contact form. But I think it is understandable:

    I did: Renewed the subscriptions on some of my upgrades. But one
    subscription is on a cycle 11 weeks later than the others. Last year I
    was able to renew that one at the same time as the others.

    I saw: The later subscription appears on the upgrade page with a
    notation that it will expire in April, but there is no control with
    which to renew it now. Apparently I have to wait around until your
    server thinks the renewal date is close enough rather than just
    getting all the renewals out of the way at once.

    I expected: To be able to do all the renewals at one time and not
    think about it again until next year.

    A "Happiness Engineer" replied as follows:

    Hi there,

    We offer auto-renewal of upgrades on this screen:
    [my blog's URL]/wp-admin/paid-upgrades.php

    You can enable or cancel auto-renewal any time. I hope that will work for you!

    This is not support. I am not certain from this reply whether the "Happiness Engineer" even read my message. This does not seem like a promising route for getting a bug report transmitted to the programming Staff.

    So, to whatever more senior Staff may be paying attention to this topic: in the course of implementing an option for automatic renewal of upgrade subscriptions (a feature which I can not use), you removed the ability to manually renew all one's upgrade subscriptions at the same time. You made my life harder, not easier.

    It does not have to be this way. You should provide a "Renew" (or "Renew Now" or "Renew Manually") button along with the button about automatic renewal. It would be especially useful for my situation and useful also for any account where automatic renewal is disabled. But also if, on some particular occasion, automatic renewal is not suitable for someone who normally uses it, he or she would be able to simply preempt it by renewing manually without needing to change the automatic setting.

    Thank you in advance for your attention to this bug.

  18. Staff don't trawl the forum looking for threads to which to respond. The Help button really is the best way.

  19. @verbifex

    You have raised and discussed an issue which will most likely be of interest to some/many people who read this forum.

    But we here are volunteers. As raincoaster said, staff does not "trawl the forums looking for threads to which to respond."

    For a resolution to your own question you really must send in a notice to official staff support:
    http://en.support.wordpress.com/contact/

    I understand that you were not satisfied with the answer your got from them. Further ideas you have for making their help or customer service must be addressed to them directly.

    Continuing the discussion here is, as construction workers in the South (U.S.) say,
    "it's useless as tits on a boar hog"

    If you get a better, more satisfactory answer please let us all know…

  20. 1tess,

    You said "If you get a better, more satisfactory answer please let us all know…", so here is a report.

    About 35 minutes after I posted my previous comment, another Happiness Engineer sent me an email which apologized for the "confusion" in the previous reply and said:

    I do see what you mean regarding your renewals last year vs this year. We're investigating and we will get back to you.

    I am not sure how long it should take for this item to percolate to the top of the bug-investigation queue or what priority it ought to have. So, since 3 weeks have passed, it seems right to report, at least, that WordPress has said officially (via that HE email) that they will look at the problem. I have no reason to doubt it. I will report again when I receive more information.

    From my point of view, my previous comment had a useful result. I hope that more will follow.

    So, 1tess, if you come across any of those strange swine that you mentioned, perhaps you should do some research to find out what the unusual body parts are good for.

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