Buy a Book From Packt Publishing, and They’ll Bill You for an Unwanted Subscription

2395680608_81652dc20c_bPackt Publishing was at one time one of the better technical publishers. They sell their ebooks DRM-free at reasonable prices and used to come highly recommended.

But after their latest stunt I do not think I'd buy books from them.

Janie Clayton writes on her Red Queen Coder blog about a recent transaction at Packt where the publisher gave her an un-asked-for subscription to its library, and then started billing her for the subscription when the trial ran out:

One place that I buy a lot of programming books is Packt Publishing. They were one of the first publishers to have books out on the Unreal 4 engine. They have a lot of graphics and game programming books and their prices are fairly reasonable.

Back in May they had a deal on a set of five books on game development. Two were books I was planning to buy anyway for the price of the other five, so I bought the set of books. I noticed at the end of my invoice that they gave me a 10-day free trial of their online library of books.

...

A week later I got an email from Packt telling me my trial was almost over and they hoped I was enjoying their books. I was kind of miffed. I never initialized the trial. I have gotten free trial offers for Safari that I have never been able to use because I wasn’t a new member, but they always had a code that you needed to use in order to start the trial. I didn’t know that the trial would start automatically.

I had somewhat forgotten about this until I got an email yesterday telling me that Packt had charged me $12.99. I went to check on what the charge was for and guess what? It was for a monthly subscription to their online library.

So, they signed me up for a service I didn’t want, gave it to me without my permission, and because I was unaware that they were doing this they started charging me for something I never authorized.

Clayton goes on to write that when she contact Packt, the publisher responded by telling her that if she didn't like the subscription then she could cancel it. They didn't in any way acknowledge that what they did was slimy or unethical.

They also wouldn't admit that this was a scam, or that it is illegal.

And yes, it is both.

This might be a new trick for sleazy book publishers, but when it happens to your phone bill it's called "cramming". The FTC has fined AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile for pulling similar scams where the telecoms attach miscellaneous and unexplained fees on a customer's phone bill.

It is unethical as hell, and it is also a good reason to stay as far away from Packt as possible. You don't want them to run this scam on you, do you?

Speaking of which, if you've bought books from Packt then you should check to see whether they pulled this on you, too. You might be getting a $13 a month charge from them without realizing it.

image by gruntzooki

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

3 Comments on Buy a Book From Packt Publishing, and They’ll Bill You for an Unwanted Subscription

  1. I remember when I was a kid and I purchased coins or stamps for my collections. The sellers advertised these really great offers, and then when the coins or stamps arrived, there would be some other stamps or coins in the envelope that were offered “on approval”. I was supposed to either pay for them or send them back, but I knew that they could not make me as the ad had not mentioned the extra stamps and I had never agreed to receive them. So I neither paid nor sent them back.

  2. She made two mistakes:

    1- when she noticed she was given a free trial on her invoice, she should’ve cancelled it, then and there; but she didn’t.

    2- when she was sent the reminder about the trial a week later, she had a second chance to cancel it; again, she didn’t.

    While I disagree with giving people automatic free trials, it’s her own fault for failing to cancel it when she was given two opportunities to do so.

    And how could she not be aware of what was going on, in light of what she already knew?

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