Beware of package deals

May 24, 2013

When I signed up for Internet access with MWEB a couple of years ago, there was a special on where I got 3 free months of usage as well as free web hosting for a year. I didn’t actually care about this deal much. It was cool that it saved me 3 months of subscription, but I would have signed up anyways.

2 years later I find out that I’ve been paying for web hosting for a year. It’s a really small amount - small enough that when I looked at the debit order from my account things seemed within bounds. It was only when I happened to log into my account and see a detailed invoice that I noticed the extra item.

I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the multi-page contract I signed there was a warning that I’d have to cancel this product if I didn’t want it in the future. I don’t really care. I still feel cheated. When I contacted the MWEB billing department I got a pretty crap response from them. “Fill out this form to cancel”. Not even fake empathy.

When I submitted the form I then got told I’d have to pay another month because cancellations require 30 days notice.

The amount of money lost here is not significant. I’m not going to contest anything and I’m not going to cancel my DSL and move somewhere else. In general, I’ve found MWEB to be an excellent provider.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve found package deals that give you a discount on the thing you actually want - but don’t be fooled. Almost every time you’ll pay for that discount in other ways. Even in the world of software, non-savvy folk land up installing all sorts of toolbars for Internet Explorer when all they wanted was a music player.

Not to mention the fact that I filled in the section “I want to keep these products” and specifically noted in the follow up email to the cancellation department that I Really Definitely want to KEEP my DSL. I got this in response, which puts the fear of being Internetless into me:

Please God No

My message: customer obsession. Don’t create package deals which will require the customer to take some action in 12 months or even 10 days time if they want to not be charged.