Want a Full Refund on Your NewspaperArchive.com Subscription? Just Ask About Their Charity.

Want a Full Refund on Your NewspaperArchive.com Subscription? Just Ask About Their Charity.

by Kerry Scott on 2 May 2014

Post image for Want a Full Refund on Your NewspaperArchive.com Subscription? Just Ask About Their Charity.

In five-and-a-half years of blogging, this is by far the least fun I’ve ever had writing a post. Read the whole thing, though, because some of this you’ve probably heard about…but some of it is likely brand new information, and it’s kind of icky.

I’ve been a NewspaperArchive.com customer for years. I love doing newspaper research, and their collection includes a county in southern Minnesota where I have deep roots. In fact, longtime readers of this blog may recall that I was an affiliate for them for some time.

I last purchased a one-year subscription in February 2013, for $71.88 (although I was actually charged $95.88, which is going to be important in a few paragraphs). Not long after that, I began to hear rumblings in the online genealogy community that people were having their subscriptions auto-renewed at a rate of $99.95 for six months. That’s more than double what I’d paid, and like most folks I know, I wasn’t too happy about the dramatic price increase, especially when there was absolutely no notice. I considered keeping the subscription anyway, but realized that that price was simply beyond my budget. I could get a whole lot of newspapers on microfilm for $200/year.

I track my genealogy subscription expiration dates, so when February rolled around again, I knew that this one was about to expire. I had emailed them at the time I subscribed last year, saying that I didn’t want to auto-renew. I also gave them a credit card that had expired last summer, so they couldn’t “accidentally” auto-renew me anyway. I logged on in mid-February to confirm that they only had an expired credit card, so they couldn’t charge me.

On 21 February, I received an email from NewspaperArchive.com, saying that they couldn’t renew my subscription because my credit card had expired. I made a note of the fact that they’d even tried it, since I told them I didn’t want it renewed, but since their effort had failed I didn’t worry about it. It’s worth noting, though, that I never received anything at all from them telling me that (a) my subscription was renewing or (b) that they’d more than doubled the price I’d originally agreed to.

On 17 March I reviewed my credit card statement. I noticed that on 24 February (three days after they’d emailed me), I was charged $105.95 by NewspaperArchive.com. I emailed them, pointed out that I had requested non-auto-renewal, and asked them to reverse the charge.

If you guessed that they snottily pointed me to their terms of service, you guessed right. In fairness, the Terms of Service DO say, repeatedly, that they do not give refunds, ever (I don’t know when they added all of that, but I didn’t get an email about it). They also say that you’re responsible for keeping your credit card information current and that you’re still on the hook if you don’t (so if you’re using a temporary, single-use card as outlined in this post, you’re violating their Terms and you still owe the money). What they don’t say is that they will type in new expiration dates themselves until they get one that sticks, and then charge you anyway. They also say that you can notify them that you don’t want to auto-renew, and I did.

After days of back-and-forth emails in which I pointed out repeatedly that I HAD notified them not to auto-renew me, they offered me a 75% refund. By then, though, I had already noticed something very interesting.

The price of a subscription was listed on their website as $99.95. They’d charged me $105.95. Why the discrepancy?

Then I remembered what had happened last year. I thought I was buying a one-year membership last year for $71.88. They’d charged me for $95.88. I’d emailed them and asked about the difference, but received no reply. I did some digging back then, and saw that when you sign up for a NewspaperArchive.com membership, there’s an ad for a charity at the bottom. If you look very closely at that ad, you’ll see that they’ve auto-checked a box for you, giving your consent to a donation to a charity called GlobalWayMakers.org. You have to notice the ad, review it carefully, and uncheck the box (and then you’ll have to uncheck another box too). I didn’t look very closely at it, because it was an ad unrelated to what I was buying, and because I’ve never heard of anyone auto-adding a charitable donation to your subscription. I debated fighting them on it, but I figured it was my bad since I didn’t inspect every single pixel, and I wasn’t auto-renewing anyway, so whatever.

So, the $24 extra I’d paid in 2013 was for a donation to GlobalWayMakers.org. Presumably, the extra $6 they’d charged me this year was for the same charity (although I can’t be sure, because although I asked repeatedly, they refused to tell me what it was for).

So who is GlobalWayMakers.org?

I took a look at their website. It does say that Christopher and Debora Gill are two of the three members of the board of directors. I knew those names were connected to NewspaperArchive.com, although it’s unclear what their roles are; that information seems to have disappeared from the company’s “About Us” page. On this consumer complaint page from 2012, Debora Gill self-identified as the “owner” of NewspaperArchive.com. However, the GlobalWayMakers.org website doesn’t specifically mention any connection to NewspaperArchive.com.

Fortunately, the Wayback Machine does. In October 2009, the main page for GlobalWayMakers.org said that the charity was “a nonprofit 501(c)3 humanitarian and philanthropic expression of NewspaperArchive.com” run by Christopher and Debora Gill. By March 2010, the reference to NewspaperArchive.com had been removed. It’s been gone ever since.

That might lead you to believe that these two entities are no longer connected, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. You can review the IRS 990 forms for any charity at GuideStar.org (you’ll need to register, but it’s free, and these are public records that are meant to be accessible to donors and others). Global Way Makers is listed as a Catholic [now listed as Protestant---see the comments section below for details] charity located at 855 Wright Brothers Boulevard Southwest in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. If you search that address on the internet, you’ll find that it’s also the headquarters for NewspaperArchive.com. The Form 990s are listed for 2006, 2007 and 2012. Each of them lists Debora Leitner as the Executive Director. A quick Google search indicated that it’s likely that this is actually Debora Gill. (Note: I know from being in HR that there are many women whose legal name is different from the one they share with a spouse, so no knock there. Also, many charities have an outside firm do their tax stuff, and it looks like this one did too. They probably just had outdated info in their records.)

The Form 990 for 2006 indicates that Global Way Makers brought in $13,500 that year. In 2007, they brought in $500. In 2012, they raked in $198,189. Clearly that automatically-checked-checkbox-in-the-ad thing is working out well for them.

I started to wonder just what this “humanitarian and philanthropic expression of NewspaperArchive.com” does with the money. GuideStar.org doesn’t have an impact statement for them, but not all charities submit that. The GlobalWayMakers.org website says that they address human trafficking, microbusinesses and scholarships, orphanages, and poverty. Those are all great goals, but as a donor (a unwitting donor who became a donor by automatically being opted in via a checkbox hidden in a graphic, but still), I’d like to know exactly where my money went. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an annual report or any other document that answers that question.

I was also curious about how all of this works with NewspaperArchive.com’s Terms of Service. They say in many places that there are no refunds, that you’d be auto-billed, that you’d better pay up, etc. However, there’s not a word about Global Way Makers, even though your (auto opt-in) donation is billed in the same transaction as your subscription (and in my case, my auto opt-in donation was made as result of their changing the expiration date on my credit card without permission). That seems…not cool. I haven’t heard of any charity operating that way, and I wonder whether the charities Global Way Makers says they work with are okay receiving money that’s been obtained like this.

During the five days I spend corresponding with NewspaperArchive.com about my subscription renewal, I asked many of these questions, repeatedly. I asked whether Global Way Makers was connected to NewspaperArchive.com, and how. I asked whether Debora Gill and Debora Leitner were the same person. I asked why there was no mention of the charity in the Terms of Service. After asking repeatedly, I got silence for a couple of days (which is odd, because they were very responsive when they were telling me about the NO REFUNDS EVER policy). Then I got an email from a person who refused to give his/her name, saying that I’d be receiving a refund of the full $105.95 and that my NewspaperArchive.com account was being canceled. It was, within minutes. I received the refund a couple of days later.

It’s been six weeks, and I’ve been debating whether to post about this. I also hoped that after I’d repeatedly raised these questions, they’d revise the Terms of Service to address this, clarify the relationship between the two entities on their websites, and/or uncheck the auto-donate box so people can opt in instead of opting out. So far, they haven’t.

I’m not a company basher. In fact, I routinely take crap for objecting to the recreational company-bashing we sometimes see in this community. I’ve had a long, reasonably happy relationship with NewspaperArchive.com, and I got my money back in the end. They certainly have the right to make up draconian Terms of Service and more than double their rates (although it would be nice if they informed customers of those things). They probably even have the legal right to tamper with my credit card expiration date until they get some money out of me. It turns out that there are other companies that do this, although I certainly don’t want to do business with people like that.

But the charity thing…that’s just not cool. They might be doing great things at Global Way Makers, but this just isn’t an appropriate means of financing your whole change-the-world thing. If you want to raise money, do it the right way. This ain’t it. Be transparent.

June 2014 Update: The local newspaper in Cedar Rapids has reported that NewspaperArchive.com is now under state review. Click here to read the story

 

Photo by Michael Theis

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{ 188 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb May 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Hi Kerry, long time follower of your blog. When my NewspaperArchive subscription renewed at more than double the existing rate, I tried to cancel but was reminded of their terms of agreement. I called a few minutes ago (your post reminded me so THANK YOU!) and they immediately sent an email confirming my cancellation.

My subscription is due to expire May 10th. The email indicates my cancellation is effective June 3rd. Has anyone else encountered this? If I use it after May 10th, will they attempt to charge me again???

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I don’t know why the dates would be different. I would definitely email them and clarify, and then keep the emails. It’s always wise to have a paper trail, and that’s especially true in this case.

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Michelle Heffner May 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I’m sure this will be deleted. I’m reading your blog and I appreciate your story, however you seem a little condescending and overbearing with the talk about how genealogists back up their info with sources. No one appreciates being talked down to right off the bat. I have several years experience and do this on a professional level. I don’t use the paid newspaper services, however there are many free sites and indexes that tell you where the info is listed in libraries. But your story is a good warning to be proactive and pay attention before you purchase anything.

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Ann May 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Incredible

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Michelle, if it sounded condescending, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intent at all, and I wasn’t even really referring to genealogical sources, because this really isn’t a genealogical issue. The context of that comment was this: I’ve had a ton of people comment here saying this company’s practice is illegal. I don’t believe it is, and if I’m hosting a site where people are making very serious accusations like that, that can create a messy legal problem for me. I was (and am) irritated by people making irresponsible remarks that put me in a bad position. I was attempting to encourage people to back up their “That’s illegal! They’re crooks!” remarks with actual evidence supporting their position. If people don’t have evidence to offer, they need to stop making comments like that (or at least make them on their own blogs, where they can be responsible for the consequences).

I do stand by my assertion that nobody should be making serious accusations about this company, this charity or the couple mentioned unless they have evidence to back them up. These are real, living people, and this is a real company that employees people. Making unsupported allegations about them is a way bigger deal than posting a family tree without sources. The consequences are far more serious, and folks apparently need to be reminded of that. I’m kind of shocked that people who would bring down the hammer on someone who posted their great-grandma’s birthdate without documentation feel totally comfortable suggesting that a business practice is illegal without having produced support for that statement.

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Pam May 8, 2014 at 11:13 am

Michelle Heffner–If Kerry Scott sounds condescending than you could never read a post of mine…It would be a creative truly foul string of expletives describing my dealings with this company. Kerry writing this post–regardless of any tone anyone might detect–is nothing short of a public service message to the genealogy community.

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Kerry Scott May 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

Eh, I’m not offended. I think she meant it sounded cranky, and she’s not wrong there. I don’t really want to pile on about this.

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Sharon May 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

This story reminds me of an experience I had in Colorado about 10 years ago. I supported a mission group that purportedly divvied collected funds directly to missionaries over seas. I also received their newsletter which over time indicated that the donations were going to one couple. Upon investigation, that couple was a child and spouse of the persons running the mission group, and evidently the couple were not overseas; they were at home. It took a lot of requests (and no further donations, which evidently did) for them to stop soliciting me. Too bad. So sad. The intention was good, but….

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm

For the record, I found zero evidence that any donations are being misdirected in this case. But I agree that it’s frustrating in general when charities don’t do what they’re meant to do. That makes it tough for the good ones out there to raise money, because donors become jaded when they hear about stories like yours. It’s a bummer.

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honey mccaa May 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Interesting story. I’m glad you followed it up till the end to resolve it.

The use of a credit card after expiration might be best answered by the credit card carrier (i’m a banker not lawyer) but if this is not allowed a credit card company will open an investigation or the bank it is affiliated with. Not to comment on the legal fine print of contract you had signed but they could answer about the expired use.

I have had a couple of times myself where there have been issues with the use of a card and once a “inquiry” is made to the card carrier they were very good at handling the questions. They contact the source of the charge.

Article is a good reminder to watch charges or see if you can pay with a check…

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm

The expiration date is legal. There’s a link in the comments above that addresses this.

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Jeff Jahn May 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm

just to add their not the only company that will do this now that auto renew. My card I had listed on ancestry.com was also expired and I got renewed on it and am sure others do the same. Auto renewal can be nice but I think their should be a time limit on auto renewal before you have to contact them again.

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Barbara May 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I don’t know anything about this company, but another website that has your people from your school screwed with me. Yes, I started a very cheap subscription, and I did not see it would auto renew. I received no email from them. I tried to fight them with my credit card company, but they said they couldn’t do anything. I asked them why didn’t they email me. They said they can’t do that with everyone. It is too time-consuming. I counted many, many emails I received from them about little things. So I had this subscription for another year I did not want. I took off ALL my credit card information so they couldn’t do it again. I took off the auto renew option. Funny how they can send me so many emails now! But about the credit card expiration date, my cable company took my money for years with an expired card (I never noticed, they never notified me), but one month, couldn’t do it, and charged me late fees and all other fees! Amazing.

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JL Beeken May 3, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Too time-consuming to send emails? That’s simply gross misinformation about how email lists work. Emails can be pre-written and sent out automatically on any schedule they like to tens of thousands of people at once. And scheduled individually for renewal dates with little-to-no effort.

It’s inexcusable that they did not inform anyone of the rate increases and beyond sleeze that it’s written into their TOS that they don’t have to.

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm

To be clear, on the sending-emails point, Barbara is talking about another company (one that was supposed to help you find your high school and college classmates). NewspaperArchive.com also doesn’t notify you via email when they double their rates or renew your subscription, but to my knowledge, they’ve never provided any explanation as to why. The “too time-consuming” excuse was from the classmates company, not NewspaperArchive.com.

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JL Beeken May 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Either way, it’s a ridiculous excuse.

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Agreed.

Debbie May 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I have been on hold with them for quite a while, right now. I am going to cancel, because this is what is on their website…

2.3.1 Recurring Subscription Plans

If you decide to terminate your Recurring Paid Subscription (“Recurring Subscription”) prior to 72 hours before the scheduled renewal of your Recurring Subscription, you will not have any financial obligation with respect to your Recurring Subscription, and you will not be billed and/or charged for your use of said Service(s). You agree, as a responsible adult user and/or subscriber, that it is your sole responsibility to terminate your Recurring Subscription prior to 72 hours before the scheduled renewal of your Recurring Subscription. If you do not terminate your Recurring Subscription prior to 72 hours before the scheduled renewal of your Recurring Subscription, your Recurring Subscription will be automatically renewed. Failure to terminate your Recurring Subscription prior to 72 hours before the scheduled renewal of your Recurring Subscription signifies to us that you agree and warrant us to continue to consider you as an active paying Subscriber. If you terminate your Recurring Subscription within the 72 hour period before the scheduled renewal of your Recurring Subscription, you will be charged for the applicable Service(s) and you will not be refunded for your Recurring Subscription in part or in full.All charges are non-refundable.

At the time of your renewal, your designated payment method will be billed our then-current fees for the applicable Recurring Subscription. NewspaperARCHIVE.com and/or its subsidiaries reserve the right to modify, change and/or discontinue any and/or all Subscription levels on Service(s), Content and/or Material at any time without notification. By subscribing to any or all Service(s), you agree that you are solely responsible for your Recurring Subscription account and you understand and agree with all of the terms and conditions within this Agreement.

So, I am still on hold, and I keep getting a message because of the unusually high volume of calls. The only way to cancel is the phone number listed,

Subscribe or Cancel Anytime
by calling 888-845-2887

24 hours a day Monday-Saturday

I may be calling every stinking day until then, and I am also contacting my credit card company to make them aware of the charge and not accept it. If I have to get a new credit card, I will, this is too expensive now, and I don’t like the “rules”.

I am so grateful this was posted, thank you a million times over…

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 2:47 pm

So they say you can cancel within 72 hours, but they won’t notify you that you’re approaching your expiration date. Also, it’s weird that you can cancel within 72 hours, but you can also cancel 7,200 hours out. You can notify them at any time that you don’t want to auto renew, although they’ll say they didn’t get the email. So that entire clause makes no sense.

Additionally, they’re telling you outright that you renew at whatever rate is current, and that they will not notify you as to what that rate is. So they could raise their rates to $1,000/month at any time, bill you for that, and you’d have no recourse, according to their Terms of Service.

And THAT is why they have a “unusually high volume of calls.” Nobody wants to do business with a company that hates customers that much.

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Debbie May 3, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Further, as I was waiting on hold, for over 10 minutes, I kept getting that high volume message, THEN, the call went to a voice that said leave a message, you then hear a beep, and you have to leave a message. I specifically stated that I want to cancel my recurring subscription, and I want a return phone call, and left my number. Think I will hear anything? I am notifying my credit card tomorrow that I want a new card and number, I don’t trust a company to return my call. I want you to know Kerry that I was having a hard time trying to figure out how my subscription was renewed when I did not want it to…and you have helped thousands of us figure out what is going on. The internet can be wonderful, and hopefully, always used for useful information…..I know, I am in dream land….

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I’m glad to hear it. I would definitely suggest following up with an email, because if you do end up having to dispute a charge, having that evidence that you canceled is going to be very helpful.

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Jai May 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Debbie,

I would email them directly. If you look at section 2.2 in their Terms and Conditions (the Terms that are up today here http://newspaperarchive.com/termscondition), they say this (emphasis mine):

If payment is not received for any reason your account will continue to accrue applicable charges for 90 days or until your account is properly cancelled, by you, the responsible adult user and/or subscriber. Upon the 90 day termination of accrual, your account information AND ALL THE ACCRUED FEES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LATE CHARGES, SURCHARGES, ATTORNEY AND SUBSCRIPTION FEES will be transferred to a collection agency and reported to the credit bureau.

Get everything in writing with these guys!! You never know if you’ll have to prove you tried to contact them before you were re-billed. Good luck. I’m so glad Kerry posted this.

Jai.

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Rondina June 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

Debbie & Kerry,

Is it possible to direct our banks to not allow charges from an entity beforehand—without the bank charging us a fee?

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Kerry Scott June 24, 2014 at 11:57 am

I’m definitely not a banking expert, but my understanding is that the only way to do this is to use one of those temporary credit card numbers that you can get from some credit card companies. However, in this case, doing so would violate NewspaperArchive.com’s TOS…and as a practical matter, it appears to me that some companies’ systems are sophisticated enough to detect that the card is temporary, and reject it.

Jenny Lanctot May 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm

If it gives any hope to all the folks trying to cancel right now … after hearing several people talking about the rate increase on Facebook a few months ago, I sent an email to customerservice@newspaperarchive.com (3/20/14) giving them my expiration date and the email address I used to create the account (the only way I knew how to identify my account), and letting them know that I wanted to cancel my subscription, cancel auto-renew, and asked that they confirm that both had been done.

I received a reply email confirming cancellation of the subscription and the auto-renew service the same day. My account cancelled on 4/3/14, and I have not seen another charge on my account.

I wasn’t required to make a phone call. I sent the email and received an immediate reply (seriously, within like 15 minutes). I wanted everything in writing – if you make a phone call, you have no proof that you cancelled. I’ve worked for a lawyer for almost 10 years, I’m paranoid that way.

So, while it doesn’t make their business practices any less sleazy, I don’t think they are going out of their way to steal money from their [involuntary] subscribers. They are just REALLY capitalizing on “caveat emptor.” I’m going to guess that they have seen such a mass exodus of members in the last few months that they will have no choice but to review their TOS and subscription fees. Win-win for us.

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Dave May 3, 2014 at 3:33 pm

It’s true that this sort of behavior is found in many places, but this company seems to have taken it to the extreme. The kindest thing I can say is that these business practices are both despicable and reprehensible.

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Debbie May 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm

I don’t mean to be a bother on here, but, I am at my account information page on NewspaperARCHIVE.com, and at the bottom of the page there is a box that is already checked, that says, “Buy this print Popup”. What in the heck is THAT?????????????????????? I unchecked the box, but, seriously, what does that mean?

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Wow—I have no idea. I haven’t seen that, and I no longer have an account with them (obviously) so I can’t test it. They sure do like the auto opt-in box.

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JL Beeken May 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

This reminds me of web marketing as it was pre-2010. Remember the ubiquitous teeth-whitening ads? If you sent in $1.95 for shipping on a free sample you were automatically (in the fine print) signed up to a raft of monthly credit card charges for unrelated products, maybe five or six of them at a time.

These folks may be making these auto opt-ins more visible but, still, I don’t think potential subscribers should have to scour and sweat through every page hoping not to miss one.

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I agree. I don’t want to play a game of “gotcha,” and I don’t think anyone else does either. I want to feel like the people I send money to are reasonable people who want to continue our relationship on a positive footing. I think that’s true for most consumers.

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Keith Riggle May 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

I think that’s just a popup window offering to sell you a physical print of the page you’re looking at.

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Keith Riggle May 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Thank so much for sharing this experience! And I don’t even feel condescended to. But then I’m not a professional genealogist. ;^) It astounds me the practices that some businesses engage in. You would think they would want to keep their customers because they like their product or service, not because they’re locked in because of the terms of service.

I like NewspaperArchive’s content, but I haven’t subscribed since I found other ways I could access their content. Ancestry.com has quite a bit of their content. Quite a few libraries have part or all of their content. TheAncestorHunt (http://www.theancestorhunt.com/newspapers.html) lists some of the libraries. There’s also a list at http://newspaperarchive.com/AccessCustomers.

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JL Beeken May 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm

For me, the clear message in all this is to not sign up for any auto-renews. I keep mine on my calendar with all other bill payments. It’s not that big a deal to log in at the required time and take care of it myself.

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Marilyn Jacobs May 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm

I have loved newspapers.com because I love newspaper research too but also like the features of being able to save it to ancestry.com family tree and the way you can clip the article. I think I got my subscription through Fold 3 for discounted price and it does expired till August. I just went to the website and clicked on option to automatically renew.

Are you saying this will not work to check off that you do not want it to automatically renew.

Thanks for letting people know about this.

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Kerry Scott May 3, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Newspapers.com is a completely separate company from NewspaperArchive.com (which is the subject of this discussion). I’ve only been with Newspapers.com for a couple of weeks, so I haven’t had any experience with their renewal process. I can only tell you that when my free trial ended last week, they emailed me in advance to tell me that they were going to charge me. They’re also owned by Ancestry.com (as is Fold3), which has a pretty good track record of canceling your subscription when you ask them.

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Kingsbury Conner May 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Ms. Scoot,
Your post regarding NewspaperArchive.com is an excellent summary of the circumstances you encountered in your dealings with that entity; clear, concise and non-accusatory. Well done. Sadly, reprehensible business practices will not go away. You have provided your constituency with a great deal of food for thought in all of their subscription dealings in this age of TOC’s.

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Kingsbury Conner May 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Whoops. Ms. Scott :)

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Jacqi Stevens May 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

…actually, considering the Clue Wagon motif, I thought Ms. Scoot was rather clever ;)

A little levity never hurts, especially after such a serious run-down on turn of events at a company whose services I’ve valued over the years. Still…Kerry, thank you. It is good to know this!

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Kerry Scott May 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Thanks! And trust me…I’ve been called way worse than Ms. Scoot.

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Melanie May 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I checked on http://www.newspapers.com and you have a choice to autorenew or not…

http://www.newspapers.com/billing-settings/

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Kari May 3, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Newspapers.com and newspaperarchives.com are two different sites.

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Kari May 3, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Kerry, it would be interesting to check into sometime when I have time, but I wonder what relationship, if any, newspaperarchives.com has with archives.com. Although some of the newspapers are available on archives.com (with which I have an account), I couldn’t access all of them without an additional newspaperarchives subscription. When I decided to ONLY have that subscrip and cancelled my archives subscrip, I could not longer access the newspaperarchives until I renewed my archives account.

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Kerry Scott May 4, 2014 at 7:23 am

There’s no relationship at all between NewspaperArchive.com and Archives.com. I’m not sure what year you had that experience (they may have had some sort of temporary marketing partnership in the distant past), but a couple of years ago, Ancestry.com bought Archives.com.

Ancestry owns Newspapers.com, Fold3, and Archives.com. NewspaperArchive.com is its own company.

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Kari May 4, 2014 at 9:22 am

This was just last week. I had subscribed to archives.com and when I would try to read some of the newspaper resources listed on there, it wouldn’t let me do it unless I had a newspaperarchives subscription. I purchased that and cancelled the archives one since I had gotten all I wanted out of it. I purchased a “special” 3-month subscription for 29.97. I attempted to look up the newspaper articles I wanted and it still would not let me. I resubscribed to archives and now I have access. That’s why I thought there had to be some connection as I have no other answer for why that happened.

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Kerry Scott May 4, 2014 at 9:35 am

I would bet that that’s actually for Newspapers.com, not NewspaperArchive.com. Since Newspapers.com and Archives.com are owned by the same company, that would make sense.

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Kari May 4, 2014 at 9:40 am

That could be it. It was just odd I couldn’t get on newspaperarchives until I renewed my archives.com subscription.

Kari May 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Not trying to be argumentative here, but just wanted people to be aware….archives.com and newspaperarchives.com ARE together according to the archives.com website.

“Partner Memberships and Discounts Back to top
How do I get help accessing records at fold3.com?
Archives is not the same company as Fold3. Click here to visit the Fold3 website.

When you get to Fold3′s website, click the “Help” or “Sign-in” link in the upper right-hand corner to find more information.

How do I manage my OneGreatFamily or NewspaperArchive membership purchased through Archives.com?
If you have questions about the OneGreatFamily product, please contact 1-888-512-6431 (9:00AM to 5:00pm MST – Mon-Fri) for further assistance, or click here.

If you have questions about the NewspaperArchive product, please contact 1-888-845-2887 (8:00AM to 5:00pm CST – Mon-Fri) or customerservice@newspaperarchive.com.”

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Ann May 7, 2014 at 4:48 am

Kari,

That’s a “partnership” between Archives.com and Newspaperarchive.com – note that Archives.com also lists familysearch.org as a “partner.”

http://www.archives.com/aboutus – see the right hand column for a list of Partners.

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Lewis Hartswick May 4, 2014 at 6:43 am

That is exactly the reason I’ve been hesitant to enroll in ANY site that has
only “automatic” renewal. Even to Ancestry.com . I refuse to be on the
defensive to get something like that to STOP!!! I’d be glad to send a
check for each annual subscription but those automatic renewals just
have to go.
…lew…

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Steve Lunsford May 4, 2014 at 7:18 am

Thanks for the article. I have vacillated for sometime about a membership but you have allowed me to put this source out of my mind.

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Debbie May 4, 2014 at 9:53 am

I don’t want to give flame-throwers a platform, but, if enough of us have questions as to the probability of being scammed, is a class action lawsuit a way to go? I have gotten confused at this point, about whether my money went to a subscription, AND a charity, if we should have been able to knowingly include our forced donation on IRS forms, and what exactly are the costs of the membership. I keep reading different things on their own website, and frankly, I am befuddled. I also have not received an email about my cancelation request, and I think this investigation should go a lot further. I have also looked at all my other subscriptions, and am ready to drop all but 2, because I feel I am being hornswoggled, as my elders used to say.

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Kerry Scott May 4, 2014 at 10:06 am

I don’t intend to pursue legal action, so I don’t have much interest in hosting a discussion of a class action lawsuit or advising others about that. I would encourage anyone who wants to explore that option to start their own blog or other means of hosting a conversation with other like-minded people. That’s just not a fit for me.

I’ve invested as much time and money as I care to in terms of investigating this. If others want to investigate further and report back on their own platforms, they’re free to do so. I’m still hoping that NewspaperArchive.com makes some changes so that this all becomes moot.

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Debbie May 4, 2014 at 11:10 am

Thanks, I was just wondering. I posted this on my facebook page too, and I may just start another one, and if I do, can I post a link to it here?

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Kerry Scott May 4, 2014 at 11:33 am

You’re welcome to post a link to your Facebook page. When you comment, it has fields for your name, email, and URL, so anyone can include a link to their personal site.

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Jacky May 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm

In regards to the company being able to renew an expired credit card, yes, from what I have read and understand, this is a legal & normal practice. Many businesses that allow for auto-renewals do this (online companies, public utility companies, etc.). I read a lot about it when I noticed my phone company renewing an expired card… The auto-donation for their charity is the worrisome part to me, and likely the reason I will never give this company the time of day. I really hope someone loos into this closely to figure out what is going on. I’m not saying that they are doing anything illegal or not, because I frankly don’t know, but either way, it is a sleazy way to conduct business.

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Sue May 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Thank you for this reminder and that we should check our subscriptions. This is one reason I don’t do automatic renewals anymore. I do revisit my genealogy subscriptions every year to see if I use them enough. I actually did a chart this year with my online subscriptions, gene societies and heredity societies – boy does it add up quickly.

You know have a new follower

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Meredith May 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I used to be a subscriber myself, and I’m sure I ran into similar issues, but somehow I was able to successfully unsubscribe a few years ago.

I am extraordinarily concerned, however, with the charitable donations that are auto-added and auto-renewed. I’m further concerned that the General Manager of Newspaper Archive is one of the founders and operators of the organization. While the organization does not list any compensation in their 990′s, it also is not clear as to its donations. They claim international work, but such a charity would have to fill out a full 990 to report any international grants.

If you are concerned that there may be illegal practices, you should fill out and file the following form to notify the IRS to look into both the charity and the company. The whole thing is extremely fishy.

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f13909.pdf

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Jacquie May 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Very interesting! I like how you are keeping the discussion to (as Joe Friday would say) “just the facts, ma’am”. And not the drama stuff. Because of this article I’m going to be careful when signing up for automatic renewals.

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Christine May 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm

It appears I was not charge the extra donation amount. As much as I don’t want this subscription especially now I will cancel and then use it as much as I can before it expires. I will definitely be more careful going forward. I track all my renewals and would have cancelled had I known. Every other genealogy site that I have that auto renews sends me an e-mail before and after. They also allow cancellations with refunds for the unused number of days.

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Debbie May 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Hmm, Day 2, no contact from them…..

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Debbie May 5, 2014 at 5:34 pm

OH MY GOSH!!!! I feel like I have won an academy award, look at the email I JUST got!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for contacting us. Your membership has been cancelled and you will not be re-billed. You will have access to the service until the end of your subscription, which is until: 8/21/2014 7:59:59 AM. We are always adding content to our web site – over 2.5 million pages per month – so check back often to see if we have new information available for your research.

Please refer to our terms and conditions page should you have any questions regarding our policies. http://www.newspaperarchive.com/HtmlViewer.aspx?ctl=TermsConditions

Sincerely,

Customer Service
NewspaperARCHIVE.com®
customerservice@NewspaperARCHIVE.com

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Cookie May 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

With 20 years of financial services background, I want to inform you that if you are paying by credit card, and not debit card, under your Visa, Discover, MasterCard, AMEX agreements, you have something called CHARGEBACK RIGHTS. Chargeback rights are your, and I want to emphasize YOUR appeal process through your financial institution for charges that you believe are fraudulent.

Rules governed your chargeback rights vary, so get an updated credit card disclosure, find the section for chargebacks, read them and if doubt, contact your credit card provider and ask for an explanation of those rights.

In a nutshell, with chargeback rights, you see your bill, you find the unauthorized charge, you write to your provider, explain why you are disagreeing with them with facts and ask them to refuse the charge. Stick with facts (I wrote to them on….I instructed them to not renew my account and they renewed it without my permission, my credit card expired, a new card was issued and they still renewed it with my providing them with the new dates, etc.) and then let them review the process. They will contact the vendor, the vendor will plead their case. Remember, time is of the essence, be prompt.

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Paula May 6, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I’d signed on for a subscription to Newspaper Archives over a year ago and the advertised rate with the donation to the non-profit. When my credit card billing appeared, the amount quoted was significantly less than the amount billed. I called my credit card company immediately. And the situation was resolved via the credit card as a disputed billing due to the discrepancy. I will suggest that going through your credit card company might result in satisfactory results as we are the consumers are the ongoing customers of the credit card companies therefore they have a vested interested in resolving issues such as these.

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Denise Levenick May 6, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Hi Kerry – Looks like you are up from your sickbed! Well done. It might be worth adding that subscriptions to NewspaperArchive are also run through Facebook Apps. In the days BLP (before Last Pass the Wonder Password Program) I signed up for some things using FB Apps, so when I couldn’t figure out my user name and password, I also checked my Facebook Apps. It looks like I only used the site via my SCGS membership, but other folks might find a long lost membership through a forgotten Facebook-linked App.

Thanks for giving us the heads-up on this one. ~ Denise

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Annie May 7, 2014 at 12:07 am

Regarding the tax receipts from non-profits: A non-profit is required to provide you with a tax receipt if you donate $250 or more per calendar year. Most will give you a tax receipt for any amount you donate, but this is just as a professional courtesy. You find a blurb on your IRS Schedule A form if you itemize that for donations over $250, you need to have a donation statement from the charity. The IRS no longer accepts canceled checks as proof because churches can offer goods exchanged for services, such as bake sales, which are not tax deductible in the USA. Thanks for warning me. I will not be taking out a subscription.

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Rondina Muncy May 7, 2014 at 4:06 am

Perhaps the best post you have ever written.

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Kerry Scott May 7, 2014 at 7:31 am

Thanks. We’ll see if it prompts any real change. That’s always the real measure of a post like this.

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Martin Roe Eidhammer May 7, 2014 at 7:18 am

Hello. This is my first time visiting your blog. I will not be my last. Thank you for addressing this kind of businesspolicies.

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Larry May 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

I was a long time subscriber to newspaperarchive.com (10+ years at less than $75. per year) and this year when my auto-renew date occurred I received an email from them stating that my VISA account was no longer valid and they wanted a current account number. So, I looked at their subscription page and saw that the rates had more than doubled and I decided not to renew.

Well to make a long story short, I had some VISA charges at Target stores during the period of their massive data breach. I immediately went to my bank and cancelled my VISA and had another card and account number created. THANK YOU TARGET or else I would have had an auto-renew at newspaperarchive take place. Talk about falling into a sewer and coming out smelling like a rose…

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Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana May 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Kerry,

Well, I’m going to add a new twist to this. I was also one of those people who had their Chase debit cards cancelled and reissued because of what happened at Target. My card was cancelled some time at the beginning of January. It’s been such a mess getting everything straightened out, and I have to admit that NewspaperArchive.com was one of my ‘missed’ companies. I can’t remember the last time I was on the site (clearly, I don’t use/need it) and with everyone talking about auto-renewals, I thought I’d see if I could log in. Sure enough, not only could I log in, but somehow they’ve been billing my account MONTHLY!! It says it went through, but I checked my statement and there wasn’t a charge there, so I have NO idea where the money is coming from. Needless to say, I just sent an email requesting they cancel my account. Oh, the monthly went from $19.95 to 9.95…I think maybe Kerry’s started something. ;-)

Thank you for bringing this company’s business practices to light.

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Kerry Scott May 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Right now their website lists an “introductory” one-month membership of $9.95, but they still list the regular monthly membership as $29.95 and the six-month one as $99.95. They still have the charity donation box auto-checked, too.

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Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana May 8, 2014 at 5:59 am

Well! You must have really rattled the NewspaperArchive cage, Kerry. Here’s the email I received, several hours after cancelling my ‘subscription’:

“Dear Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana,
Thank you for contacting us. Your membership has been cancelled and you will not be re-billed. You will have access to the service until the end of your subscription, which is until: 6/2/2014 7:59:58 AM. We are always adding content to our web site – over 2.5 million pages per month – so check back often to see if we have new information available for your research.”

Note the BIG change: “You will have access to the service until the end of your subscription…” This is NEW. I did a little digging, and I’d cancelled once before, several years ago, and the subscription ended IMMEDIATELY with NO REFUND. So, is this the Kerry effect? I hope so.

Thank you for educating us. I try to be observant, but there are times when research needs outweigh the use of common sense and taking the time to read TOSs. I owe you lunch!

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Kerry Scott May 8, 2014 at 7:18 am

I’d love to take credit, but no. That’s the standard text from before this post. Since they don’t offer refunds, your subscription remains active until your money runs out.

I’d like to think that a blog post will encourage a change, but I’m not super optimistic. There are hundreds of complaints about this company all over the Internet, and they don’t seem bothered; in fact, they continue to churn out the same canned, flippant response to customers.

The only part that’s new here is the part about the charity, and I meant what I said in the headline: Ask about their charity. When I did, I received an immediate, full refund, which violates both their policy and their practice. That means they DO care about that. If each of the thousands of people who have seen this post emailed to ask about the charity, I don’t think that auto opt-in checkbox would still be there.

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Laurie Haldeman-Lambe May 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

Great post, Kerry! Anytime you want to become a private detective, I’m sure you’d be a welcome addition to any agency.

As regards to this web site’s auto opt-in check box on the charity, frankly, if you have questions regarding this practice, I’d suggest writing to both your individual state’s Attorney General as well as the Attorney General of the state where the charity is located. You don’t have to accuse the charity/or this website of anything illegal, just question if this practice is allowed under your/their state’s laws. Also ask if the charity is registered. If you’ve asked the web site for info on the charity or have written to the charity’s web site requesting the same & have been denied either information or a reply, I’d include that in your correspondence with the AGs. Sad business practices, indeed.

I’ve often thought of using NewspapersArchives’ free trial, but not any more. Thank you, Kerry!

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Jana Last May 9, 2014 at 11:05 am

Kerry,

Just letting you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/05/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-may-9-2014.html

Have a great weekend!

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Peggy June 22, 2014 at 6:07 am

In todays paper – Iowa Attorney General’s office is looking into the practices of NewspaperArchive.com.

http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/cedar-rapids-company-under-state-review-after-complaints-20140622

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Cookie June 22, 2014 at 10:47 am

There was a point when it was more reliable to use Newspaper Archive itself than through the Ancestry gateway. They billed me for the Charity and all I had to say to them, immediately after seeing it on the first billing was that I was filing a “chargeback” with the credit card company because I wasn’t aware of the charge. They immediately refunded the full amount. Too many chargebacks and a MasterCard and Visa will drop the merchant account.

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Robert Morrow June 23, 2014 at 8:11 am

I use the service through a library that has a subscription that allows customer use, so I’m not open to any underhanded renewal issues (though I shudder to think what the library pays and how their renewals are handled).

I my case, a search turned up multiple results, one of which I especially wanted as it was an obituary for a family member I knew very little about. When I clicked on that result to get the full article, it failed. I repeated this cycle over several days and then wrote to NewspaperArchive.com. No response. I wrote to them three more times. After the fourth message, the results I found from the same search no longer included the page I wanted. I never did get an answer from the company at all. I was glad I wasn’t directly paying for the service.

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Dolores D'Errico June 23, 2014 at 8:20 am

This is my first time reading your blog. I read a story about this in Eastman’s Newsletter. I used to be a subscriber to Newspaper Archives; but, quit a few years ago. I used to be a yearly subscriber even further back than that; but had opted to just do a monthly subscription which was at a reduced rate. I only wanted access to newspapers of Charleston, WV and they are the only people who have them. Except for the charity problem you encountered, I went through a similar experience when trying to disengage myself from this little subscription. I informed them via e-mail that I did not want to renew. They renewed it anyway…..at a higher rate. I called the company and, of course, they had no record of me informing them that I didn’t want to continue. I, unfortunately, did not have a copy of the e-mail either. I wound up registering a dispute with my credit card company over the charge; and, that finally moved them to remove the charges. I vowed right then never to subscribe to this company again; and, to try to find access to these newspapers by other means.

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Genealogy Buff June 23, 2014 at 10:11 am

Kerri, first time to post to your site, but I want to commend you for bringing these questionable business practices to the attention to other genealogists. It is a sickening feeling to be taken advantage of and I sincerely hope the Iowa AG will get refunds for everyone who has fallen victim to this.

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Genealogy Buff June 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

BTW, I just looked at the newspaperarchive.com registration page and they must have made some quick changes since yesterday. The box to contribute is no longer automatically checked and the donation amount has been lowered to $1.00/month vs. $2.00/month. Amazing.

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Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 10:30 am

I am very glad to hear this.

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Historynut June 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

If you google the names of the husband and wife who are/were in charge of the company and charity, along with “Cayman Islands” you will find numerous news articles stating they are now residents of the Cayman Islands. Not attempting to create more drama on the matter – it was very easy to find this on the Internet.

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Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I see what you mean. Huh.

I hope they brought sunscreen.

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Historynut June 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm

The picture I saw was taken in December 2013. Both had absolutely beautiful suntans!

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Kerry Scott June 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Maybe they spend the winter there? Iowa is cold in the winter, and there are people who go to warm places to wait it out.

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Historynut June 24, 2014 at 6:54 am

Perhaps

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Gerard Neary June 24, 2014 at 11:55 am

We’ve all heard the news this week that FindMyPast (part of DC Thomson Family History) has swallowed up the Origins and Mocavo organizations through takeovers, but here’s a word of warning about DC Thomson’s aggressive financial policies. I deliberately let a FindMyPast subscription lapse because I was both a UK and Irish subscriber in the early days when the sites were separate. My credit card had expired and the card in question was not even my own … it belonged to a former partner! As Kerry explains in this blog post, these big organizations do not care a bit if your credit card has expired at subscription renewal time. They will keep trying to extract cash from [former] loyal subscribers until they hit the jackpot using expired card data.

It took me two weeks to get my unwanted subscription fee back. I claimed that DC Thomson’s spurious tactics had triggered excessive bank charges on a company overdraft facility which far exceeded the subscription sum in isolation. I argued that the owner of the credit card had never been informed that FindMyPast intended to used expired Credit Card details to pay for another individual’s subscription. I challenged FindMyPast to defend their actions in a court of law (probably English, based upon company ownership). DC Thomson backed off at this point and refunded the money in question, plus interest, by approving a cash-free 12 month subscription to World records – at my suggestion – so that I might not blog about this despicable episode.

Oh … I seem to be going against the agreement. Well, it was not in the small print terms & conditions of our many e-mails!

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Kerry Scott June 24, 2014 at 11:59 am

Interesting. I don’t have any experience with FindMyPast, and my knowledge of the rules of this sort of thing in the UK is zero, but thanks for sharing your experience.

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Ruth Coker July 7, 2014 at 10:09 am

Just got off the phone with newspaperarchive.com to cancel my subscription which ends August 28, 2014. A lady from their company called me last February about renewing and I told her that I didn’t want to renew when she told me the price had gone up to $99 for 6 months only! YIKES! However, my credit card was billed anyway. I had planned to go ahead and keep the service for six months and then drop the subscription. But, after reading the above, I decided I had better go ahead and cancel now since I do have a new expiration date on my credit card and I don’t want them guessing at what the new one might be so they can automatically bill me again.

I asked for a refund but, of course, they had no record of someone calling me last February about renewing. I also wanted a refund because I haven’t been able to access the newspapers for several months as the PDF versions will not load. There was a message sometime back about updating your browser and even though I did so numerous times, I kept receiving the ‘update your browser’ message every time I logged on. I don’t know if it is my computer or a problem on their end. And, yes, I should have done something about this sooner, but the thought of calling them and having them give me the song and dance about cleaning your cache and cookies or changing browsers was something I just didn’t want to deal with.

I told the gentleman today, who was quite civil, how much I loved newspaperarchive.com but that what the company is doing is wrong, especially the charity thing. I will not receive a refund since it has been 4 months, but that is ok. I was more concerned about being billed again without my permission.

I thanked the gentleman for his help, have received the e-mail cancellation notice and my newspaper.com account shows that my credit card has been disabled. Hoping they will get their act together in the future as over the years I found many, many great articles on their site.

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Paul October 30, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I was tempted to get a subscription, but Googled the company first and saw your blog-read it-and won’t be doing business with Newspaper Archives. Thanks for the detailed report.

PS-I left MN when I was about 23 and headed west. Still call MN home.

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Kerry Scott October 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

High five, fellow Minnesota ex-pat. I like the west, but there’s no place like home.

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