Autopayments After Expiration
December 27, 2004 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I signed up for an AOL account (don't ask) in March with a debit card that expired in March. I assumed it couldn't be charged after it expired. Then I left the country until December, only to discover on my return that it had indeed been charged after it expired. My bank is not willing to help beyond the last charge, and AOL says it can do this with no problem. Visa said I have to talk to my bank. Does anyone know what further recourse I might have? Are there laws I can cite?
posted by dmo to Law & Government (14 answers total)
If the card expired in March and was re-issued, then the charge would have gone through anyway. Usually when the card renews, you get the same number. It's supposed to be less annoying for you, Mr. El Customero. The bank is probably citing some policy of its own regarding error resolution. Usually the error resolution clause will be on your statement, but you may have to pick around elsewhere for it. The standard is sixty days from the date of the statement upon which the error appears, because it's probably in your account agreement with the bank that you agree to look at your statments in a timely manner, and timely manner is probably defined in there as well. So, all this to say - you need to find their policy regarding error resolution/EFT Disputes (Electronic Funds Transfers) and make sure they're actually adhering to their own policy. Oh, and the law involved here would be Federal Regulation E. (Link is to the Compliance Guide.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:33 AM on December 27, 2004

Thanks MM. My new debit card kept the same account number, as you guessed. I guess what I don't understand is how they can charge the card when they were not given a new, correct expiration date.
posted by dmo at 11:00 AM on December 27, 2004

I think it's common for companies like AOL to be able to charge cards without having the latest expiration date. Otherwise they would lose millions of accounts a month due to having out of date expiration dates from superceded cards.
posted by reverendX at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2004

In my experience, you can enter any expiration date you like when doing credit card processing, as long as it's later than the current date. It doesn't seem to be used like a checksum as proof that you have the "real" card.

Or at least, that's how it works when the chinese restaurant near me has a card on file and it expires; they just bump the year up 1.
posted by bcwinters at 11:09 AM on December 27, 2004

I don't think you really have recourse. It sounds like you didn't cancel the account. Providers of monthly service make a great portion of their money from people who forget about the monthly charge they agreed to. You didn't agree to pay every month unless you canceled or your credit card expired, you agreed to pay every month unless you canceled. I am not a fan of AOL, but that's the way it is. You might as well eat what you paid them so far and formally cancel the account.
posted by bingo at 11:21 AM on December 27, 2004

I agree with Bingo. I think you're out of luck.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:30 AM on December 27, 2004

Side question then:

I've got wireless access for a laptop that I seldom use. I got issued a new credit card about 2 or 3 months ago, with a new credit card number. The documentation said that when I activated the new card, the old number would be deactivated. However, I still have my wireless dialup access. What might the deal be? (I don't want to ask the ISP, because they'll obviously switch over to my new card, and I'm not so moral that I don't prefer free).
posted by Bugbread at 12:35 PM on December 27, 2004

bugbread: I bet that they tried to charge you, and are going to wait x number of days and try charging you again, etc. maybe a few more times before they actually cancel. You're only going to rack up fees this way.
posted by bingo at 12:55 PM on December 27, 2004

> I think it's common for companies like AOL to be able to charge cards
> without having the latest expiration date.

I was recently notified about an impending card expiration date by Save the Children Federation. They asked for a new expiration date, but also said that to prevent "my" child's sponsorship from being interrupted they were just going to advance the old card's expiration date month by month until they heard from me. So apparently this sort of thing is done.
posted by jfuller at 1:08 PM on December 27, 2004

What fees would be applicable? Just the buildup of unpaid bills? And is there any obligation for them to contact me to inform me that their bill payment has not gone through?
posted by Bugbread at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2004

bugbread, it entirely depends on the terms of the agreement you committed to when you took service, but above and beyond the unpaid bills, they could have the right to charge you late fees, plus interest on unpaid bills, plus anything else you basically agreed to. (Or it could just be the unpaid bills. And they'll mail you free ice cream.)

There are also almost certainly terms in the agreement that say it's your responsibility to stay current on what you owe--in this day and age, I can't imagine a service provider saying "You only have to pay us if you actually get the bill. Because we trust you."
posted by LairBob at 2:14 PM on December 27, 2004


Thanks for the advice. Though a little bit less condescension would be nice.

Just so you don't think I'm a total idiot, it's not like mooching the service was my plan. My credit card changed right as I was moving house, and I was pretty darn busy and seldom using the service. I actually tried to stop service with them, but couldn't find my customer ID to log in to the customer portal. I assumed that they would be unable to bill my expired credit card and would either stop service (which would be fine by me), or call me up / send me a notice, to which I could respond with my new credit card number. I certainly wasn't intended to mooch, and I sure as hell don't think they would have any clause remotely along the lines of "You only have to pay us if you actually get the bill." I just thought it would be, "If you don't pay, we call you up all irate and get your new credit card number" or "If you don't pay, we cut off your service", as opposed to the current reality of "If you don't pay, we don't call you, e-mail you, or cut off your service. We just keep you connected to the internet anyway."

But you're right, I'm just waiting for a kick in the pants by waiting for them to contact me.
posted by Bugbread at 2:29 PM on December 27, 2004

Oh, I'm sorry--I really didn't mean to be condescending. I was more just being flip about how companies like that tend to treat people.
posted by LairBob at 2:34 PM on December 27, 2004

With AOL you do have some is *very* common that their "Saves" dept people dont actually cancel accounts when people ask...going so far as giving false cancellation numbers.

It will take awhile, but call AOL, ask for the 'saves' dept, then ask for a supervisor...the fact that your 'call' was never logged isnt of much concern since (as previously mentioned) they are quite lazy there. Tell them the rep said your username was your cancellation number, then start freaking out about being out of the country and charged after you cancelled.
posted by gren at 5:10 AM on December 28, 2004

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