Know Your Rights - Subscription Clubs

Ordinarily, a business can’t send you something out of the blue or decide to change what they provide you under an agreement and then expect you to pay for it. If this happens, it’s what people often call “negative-option billing” – billing consumers for goods they haven’t requested or making a change to contracted goods or services without telling them. The Consumer Protection Act, 2002 prohibits these practices and offers remedies when they happen. However, contracts that were signed before the act came into force in 2005 are still in effect.

Legitimate subscription clubs tell you in advance how they work and that the goods provided will change as part of the agreement. This is not negative-option billing, as you agree upfront to be billed and to see the goods change. You wouldn’t be happy if the book club kept sending you the same book every month! It’s important for you to read the offer carefully and remember to return goods you decide you don’t want, in keeping with the agreement.

Subscription club agreements must be in writing if they involve payments exceeding $50.

By law, a company cannot change an existing contract without your consent or providing you with a notice of the change and the opportunity to decline (e.g. substitute an agreed-upon product for another or “upgrade” your subscription by giving you more – and charging you more for it). If this happens, you should file a complaint.