For a couple of years I have been enjoying a £2-a-week on-line subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times. I keep it going despite the amount of coverage included in daily editions that is of no interest to me. I spend more time flicking over unwanted content than I do on reading the interesting bits. And, frankly, most of the stuff is 24 hours out of date by the time I get to it. Only the comment columns are of particular interested.
Three months ago The Times attempted to double this subscription and I had a long telephone conversation with the paper’s sales people during which I said I was prepared to continue paying £2 a month but not a penny more. Predictably they offered to extend the current subscription for a further quarter. I told them that at the end of that quarter they could decide whether to continue or to cancel; I would not pay any more.
As you can imagine, this month the direct debit jumped to £4 without warning. Times Newspapers assumed that it could just double the charge without my consent (and in direct contravention of my instructions three months ago). I have cancelled the arrangement and asked for a refund, which has been refused pending an investigation. They are now scrabbling around trying to find the record of the previous telephone conversation while I, as a matter of principle, am on the warpath for a refund.
It isn’t the money. It’s a matter of principle and because I think the whole concept of newspapers behind paywalls is a desperate last-ditch effort to safeguard revenue streams. There is now no shortage of free news on the internet, not to mention news on the television and radio. I shall not go uninformed and, instead of spending an hour every morning wading through much that bores me, I shall revert to taking my news throughout the day from free sites.
Bye bye, Times Newspapers, you will not be missed.
UPDATE 23/10/2013: The subscription department is being very ungracious and refusing to refund the erroneously charged subscription on the technicality that “I had not telephoned them in the first week of September” to cancel the subscription. Back in May I had made it quite clear to them that under no circumstances would I pay more than £2 per week and would cancel if the subscription was increased. I have suggested a refund of half the month’s subscription (which equates to the extra amount) but, if necessary, I will take action as a matter of principle. In my opinion this is sleight of hand which is unworthy of Times Newspapers. It would cost them little (just over £8) to refund and they would retain goodwill. I have now asked them for disclosure of the tape recording of the conversation I had with them in May (under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998) together with a typed transcript that they would rely on in case of further action. Watch this space but, in the meantime, existing and future subscribers should take heed of this warning.
FURTHER UPDATE 12/11/2013: Since I had had no response to my letter I sent a formal notice to News UK & Ireland Limited, owners of The Times. Coincidentally, later in the day (before this letter could have been delivered) I received notice of a refund for the excess amount of subscription taken in error. A cheque for £8.66 is on its way to me. As a result of this distasteful little displute The Times and The Sunday Times have alienated at least one customer for life. It would have been so much easier had they held their hands up, said sorry and given me my money back in the first place. I live and I learn.