Blog: Unlimited Charges

I noticed something interesting while reviewing my credit card bills a couple of evenings ago: monthly charges for $9.99 from “Amazon Downloads”, going back several months.

I buy a lot of e-books. I looked for receipts from Amazon in email. I found a bunch, but none from Amazon for $9.99. I never delete email receipts; I put all of them into a separate folder so that I can collate them and have the relevant ones as records of business expenses at tax time. No receipts for $9.99 on or near the associated dates.

I did a Google search for “Amazon Downloads charge 9.99”; it autocompleted before I got to the 9.99 part. It seems that I’m not alone.

It turns out that Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscriptions get started in a very subtle and hard-to-notice way, and then automatically renew monthly, without receipts being issued. Other auto-renewing services do provide notification each business cycle; Amazon doesn’t, so it seems.

And I found it intriguing how quickly they processed a refund when I pointed this out.

Within moments of tweeting about this, I heard from another fellow who had the same experience. Indeed I’m not alone.

This really bugs me. On the other hand, by Amazon’s lights, this is not a bug; the system is doing what it is designed to do. I would like to believe that if I were a tester at Amazon, I would have noted the subtlety of the auto-renewal option and the absence of monthly receipts as Severity-1 problems, inconsistent with an image that the organization would like to project or defend. After this experience, and feeling like I’ve been duped, I hope I would be more likely to notice and report these problems. And I’d like to believe that a tester at Amazon did just that, but I don’t know; I can’t know.

I can be more certain that management has not so far seen this as a problem, and I have a problem with that. Meanwhile, lesson learned; keep reviewing those credit card purchases diligently every month.

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