AOL has agreed to pay a fine and change its customer service practices, according to this story. If you've seen that my email address is Shaxpeer@aolDOTcom, then you know I'm a subscriber, and yeah, I've had my share of problems with them over the years, like a lot of their customers.
The problem here is that AOL makes it next to impossible to unsubscribe from their service. You have to get very lucky to find their 800 number in the first place, then endure unrelenting attempts by their phone reps to get you to reconsider cancelling (apparently they gave bonuses in the "tens of thousands" of dollars to reps who had a high rate of retention in such cases).
Now these practices have bitten them with a 1.25 million dollar fine and yeah, a)it's yet another B.S. Eliot "Vote Spitzer for Governor" Spitzer lawsuit against a big business and b)1.25 million dollars is less than negligible for AOL, but this is part of a larger movement to end deceptive and unfair business practices by large companies.
Now, what's this have to do with the subject of this blog? I received a call from my credit card company recently, asking if I wanted to sign up for their credit protection plan. Working in the industry as I do, I know that credit protection plans are completely worthless, despite anything your credit card company tells you. There is no reason to sign up for credit protection plans. Don't do it. Ever. If you have one, call and cancel now. Do it now!
Now, I decided to use myself as an experiment for the sake of this blog, and I agreed to the credit protection plan. After one month, I called to cancel. I told the rep I had seen numerous complaints online about the service, including complaints about how difficult it was to cancel the service.
I wish I'd recorded the call. The guy simply would not let me cancel. He kept slicing of bits and pieces of the service here and there, reducing the price of the plan, but simply wouldn't entertain the thought of letting me actually cancel. It was worse than I could have imaged it would be. I finally gave up and got off the phone.
So I'm just going to pay off the balance and cancel the card. And when I call to cancel, I'm going to tell them exactly why; because of the way they handle their credit protection plan. (The truth is, I figured that once I signed up for the service, I'd never be able to get rid of it anyway. Even if I managed to successfully cancel, that service has a disturbing tendency to just show back up on one's account later with this particular CC company. And since that card is 16.99% APR and I know I can do better, I planned to get a card from someone else anyway.)
So let's see if Eliot "Mr. Ambition" Spitzer sues this credit card company for the same violations as AOL. We'll see. This particular CC company is the biggest campaign contributor in Washington, so I doubt we'll see that kind of action against them. But I can always blog about them and expose their shenanegans.
And remember this: YOU DO NOT NEED A CREDIT PROTECTION PLAN. Even if you do run into a situation where you could use something like this, the company will get out of paying it anyway. It's just like insurance: their job is to avoid paying claims. I looked over the contract pretty closely, and they've left themselves all the loopholes they need to dodge their responsibility. Get to a point where you are paying your balances off in full every month and this won't even be an issue for you.