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Consumer Alert

Pay attention when magazine renewal offers arrive

Q. My mother, who is 83, was renewing her subscription to the Saturday Evening Post. She did, through them, but another company, Subco, called her and she renewed with them, unknowingly, twice. Now she is subscribed through 2022. I recently noticed and called Saturday Evening Post and they canceled the subscription and will send a refund check, but said I would have to call Subco. They directed me to another company, which said they can’t cancel because they already sent the money to the publisher. I feel like I’m getting the runaround. How do I get her money refunded?

CHARLOTTE DREW, TEWSKBURY

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A. The magazine subscription business has long been a source of problems for consumers. One of the classics is the renewal notice sent when you still have lots of time left on the subscription. It gets even dicier when a third party is involved.

For elders, particularly those with memory problems (and consumers who just don’t pay attention), it’s an easy trap to fall into. The situation with your mother seems pretty obvious and ought to be corrected.

After I contacted Subco and they reviewed their records, they quickly reversed course. “First, let me say how truly sorry I am to hear about the difficulties that [she] has experienced with her subscription being renewed again,” Subco founder Kelly Vucovich said. “We pride ourselves on customer service and a ‘no questions asked’ refund policy.”

She said the company found that your mother did renew twice in a year, and the company will refund her $107.88 and add her to its “do not promote” list.

Be careful when you get a magazine renewal offer. Be sure your subscription is really expiring. If you have an older relative you’re caring for, tell them to put those solicitations on the side so you can review them. Also, do not agree to anything over the phone.

If the subscription offer is coming from a third party, check out the company if the deal seems interesting. Sometimes, you’ll find favorable terms. Other times, you’ll find a very shady business. Be sure of which one before signing up.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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