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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

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Nirmala June 23, 2016 um 5:53 pm

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.

Nirmala June 23, 2016 um 5:55 pm

Of course, back then they did not have my credit card number 🙂

tubemonkey June 24, 2016 um 12:16 pm

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?

P davis August 31, 2017 um 3:56 pm

I had the same experience with this slimy outfit. They make it part of the registration for your purchase. I only realized this when it showed up on my bill. It is not obvious how to cancel this. Although I have purchased a number of their books, I have never found a way of downloading the code without getting tangled up in extra expenses.

Terrence Enright September 26, 2017 um 8:35 pm

They didn’t even offer an excuse to me for charging me $29 for absolutely nothing days after I signed up for and canceled a free 30 day trial. Bank shows Packt Publishing LTD 35 Livery Street BIRMINGHAM GBG as the charge for $29. They simply claim:
"We understand that you have not purchased anything from our website and still your bank account is charged for $29.99…" and then some nonsense about not being able to find my acct. No refund or further response. FTC,, FCC, Bank, and States Attorney charges have been lodged by myself. If that doesn’t work I can pay court fees here to charge them in local court as a business committing fraud in Illinois and when they don’t appear I will ask for warrants to be issued, then file through my congressional office to give notice with Homeland Security to flag at US airports for outstanding warrants. Stay away from these snakes. FILE if you have legal issues or our corporate overlords are just encouraged to continue in flaunting our laws (with the help of our pols and courts).

Charles Rogers October 1, 2017 um 12:03 pm

I would really like to speak with (Terrence Enright) about her experience, I have been dealing with the same issue except, I was being charged for over a year the $29.99, twice a month, except for the first month. That I did buy/pay for a single book. I have been talking to other people that have been dealing with these same issues. Most people don’t even know unless they go back and check all their credit cards, it’s a pain in the (Hands) looking through all your credit cards especially if you have a few wallets full, which I do and this is taking me time and lots of it.
However, I have received back thousands in charges that were not authorized to charge, several like this company where they started charging for the first few months a single and already not authorized charge then when no person calls about these fraudulent charges informing that business of the people/customers that look at their credit card statements or don’t reconcile their credit cards. Then you start getting the second charge for another monthly process, or some form of lower fee charge (imagine if you were to get an additional $29.99 a month for over a year from e few million people) it adds up quickly!
I think that this company and others like Verizon should be sued for these practices while being fined is a form of punishment, what about all the millions of people who have been inconvenienced and deserve to be compensated for their use of your money, right? Think about this, just refunding the "improperly and accidental charges to so many people which the charges were not authorized in the first place", what happens to the people that haven’t or don’t ever catch these fraudulent scams? They lose their money, let’s face it sometimes in life that $29.99 a month (let alone $29.99 x 2= $59.98 or more, times a month can make a huge difference to that struggling person, family or to that elderly person that has been retired for 10 plus years.
I tell you all this, go out and start to charge your clients or customers additional charges like that of a double charge (where these big companies easily say oh, sorry it was a glitch in the system) or some random fee for nothing and see if your excuses keep you out of legal issues and expensive attorneys. That is why these companies need to pay REAL consequences for these practices which appear way too much to such a number of people for this to be of glitches and accidental consequences. Thanks, CR

Ivan May 10, 2018 um 3:05 pm

This 'slimy outfit' is owned by David and Rachel Maclean. She is a Conservative MP. Slimy is a fitting word for her…..

edik August 10, 2019 um 11:32 am

Most of the authors are Indians, paid peanuts and write absolutely terrible fiction, for most of the books are frankly, terrible. I avoid them like the plague after finding huge mistakes (in the cut and pasted sections!). Mostly the English is awful and the authors have (genuinely) less experience than the reader, many terming themselves "enthusiasts".

Nate Hoffelder August 11, 2019 um 6:11 pm

fiction? What are you talking about?

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