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