Earlier today I was squawking about the sales tactics of PeopleFinder’s Stud or Dud? iPhone app: Once it has your credit-card info, it attempts to use a discount to convince you to sign up for various services that cost $24.95 a month, a price that’s mentioned only in fine print. As I did my grumbling, I didn’t realize that the U.S. Senate had been conducting a hearing on tactics of this sort, which are widely used by some of the largest e-commerce companies in America. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch has a good summary, and embedded this news report:
One of the companies that’s made millions off these shenanigans is Orbitz. Last March, I blogged about the related indignity that company puts its customers through: tacking travel insurance and limo rides onto their airfare purchases and forcing them to opt out (if they notice the charges) rather than opt in.
If you read every single word on every page during a sales transaction with companies that do this, you might avoid any unexpected charges. But dealing with this stuff makes an online sales transaction feel like it’s pockmarked with land mines that might go off at any moment. And it leaves me feeling like the e-tailers in question–some of who otherwise have extremely respectable sites–think their customers are patsies.
Isn’t a company’s reputation worth more than any few million dollars? Wouldn’t it be nice if corporate America quietly decided that treating consumers this way wasn’t worth it before the Feds force them to cut it out?