The lure of subscription services often starts with a free trial but too often consumers forget they signed up or stopped using the service, which can lead to recurring charges. Visa is looking to put a stop to this problem with a new policy to combat surprise debits.
“Visa is implementing a new policy that will help to ensure that consumers have greater transparency, choice and control over their subscription payments,” Mary Kay Bowman, head of global buyer and seller solutions, Visa, said in a statement on Thursday (April 16).
Sellers extending free trials or introductory offers as part of an ongoing subscription will have to give cardholders straightforward details that make the transaction simple to identify and act upon. This transparency is intended to reduce disputes and adds to consumer protections Visa has had in place since 2011, the company said.
The policy requires that sellers email or text cardholders when a trial or introductory offer is extended and provide agreement terms, alerts about upcoming payments and instructions about canceling.
“This new policy will help consumers during these unprecedented times when a majority of people are sheltering in place and buying — and trying — more goods online,” Bowman said. “Anyone trying out a new digital or physical goods subscription under an introductory offer will get a clear reminder when their trial ends, before incurring additional charges, so they can make an informed decision about whether they’d like to continue the subscription.”
Feedback from financial institutions and sellers was positive, according to Visa. “They felt cardholder recognition and understanding of the terms of an offer is key to a good experience,” Bowman said.
The new policy is effective April 18 and applies to free or introductory offers that extend into subscriptions for both physical and digital goods.
Subscriptions during the coronavirus pandemic have taken a hit along with every other industry. Vendors are trying to counter the pandemic-induced wave of cancellations by offering a pause, which allows consumers to temporarily suspend a streaming channel or other service, with the option to resume at will.