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The truth about free trials

Tom Spring | Sept. 10, 2012
We handed over our credit card for 40 online trials, to find out the real cost of 'free.'

A spokesperson for TrustFax later apologized, saying that I had been billed erroneously because I had canceled on the last day of the free trial; though the billing had begun the minute my free trial was over, the company's processing of my cancellation request had taken 24 hours.

Technical difficulties

When it's quit-or-get-billed time, technical snafus are doubly frustrating. I was surprised to see how many services-such as ESPN Insider, FreeCreditScore.com, GameHouse, IMDb Pro, RealPlayer Super Pass, and Spotify Premium-suffered from technical errors on their sites that made canceling hard.

With Spotify Premium, for example, I ran into a password glitch. When I indicated that I wanted to cancel my Spotify account within the client software, the service-cancellation page loaded in my browser and asked me to resubmit my Spotify password. Because I had been forced to set up my Spotify account with my Facebook credentials, I entered my Facebook password. Spotify rejected that password several times, serving up an "Incorrect Password" message despite the fact that I had verified it was correct. At this point, I had few options other than to select the 'Forgot your password?' link.

Next, Spotify declared: "It looks like you are using your Facebook credentials to log in to Spotify. To change your Facebook password go to your settings page at Facebook.com." After I changed the password using my Google Chrome browser, Spotify still re­­fused to accept my password on its site. I couldn't unsubscribe.

Graham James, a Spotify spokes­person, later told me that I wasn't the only person hit with this bug. He said that a "medium-sized" group of people was frustrated by this problem earlier this year, and that the glitch had since been corrected. The issue, James said, was that the browser window Spotify spawned for canceling wouldn't accept Facebook passwords. The fix was to open a different browser: If you were using, say, Chrome, you could avoid the problem by opening the same Web page in Internet Explorer.

Hard to find, hard to cancel

I had a particularly difficult time attempting to cancel a 30-day trial of SociallyKnow, an $11.95-a-month service that monitors your child's Facebook account and reports signs of bullying or risky communication. I could find no cancellation information on the website. The toll-free phone number that I dialed took me to an answering system that would accept only voicemail messages, with the promise that someone would get back to me. When I emailed the company's customer support department from a link on the homepage, I received bounce-back messages saying "address unknown." I never received a callback despite leaving nearly a half-dozen requests for the company to return my call.

 

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