The Fine Print: Surprise! This is a Subscription!

Thanks to BillGuard users who write to us with examples of sneaky fine print and hidden charges!

A BillGuard participant sent us the following shady example of Fine Print.

It sounds innocent enough – you’re getting charged monthly. You simply need to send a quick email to cancel. You only have to cancel one day in advance. This fine print, alone, in a vacuum, might not reveal anything grey-charge-esque about it. In fact, compared to many of the other examples of fine print that we’ve highlighted here on the BillGuard blog, this one looks pretty darn solid. Commendable, even.

But here’s the problem: NO WHERE on the merchant’s merchant’s order form (the sales page) does it mention that you’re signing up for a subscription. The order form is designed to make you think that you’re making a one-time-only purchase.

Here’s how the order form reads:

Then it leads you to a standard order form, where you input your name, address, and billing information. Right before you checkout, you have to click a little box that says that you agree to the Terms and Conditions.

The words “Terms and Conditions” is highlighted, and when you click on that link, and scroll down to paragraph 32, you discover you’ve actually just signed up for a monthly subscription.

That’s right: The only disclosure that you’re actually signing up for a monthly subscription is buried in Paragraph 32 of the fine print.

Gee, shouldn’t they have disclosed that on the sales page?

It’s hard to show you this without revealing the identity of the merchant, so you’ll have to take our word for it. Trust us, we were shocked to discover that this was actually a monthly subscription – just as the BillGuard user who sent us this example probably felt.

Perhaps that’s why this merchant makes it so easy to cancel? Because the merchant knows it would get much more irate feedback if its unwitting subscribers had to jump through hoops in order to cancel the purchase?

And perhaps that’s why paragraph 33 contains the lines:

Maybe, just maybe, this merchant banks on getting the first monthly payment from everyone, expecting them all to cancel once they realize what’s happened.


Share your examples of fine print and grey charges with BillGuard.