Report: Site Employs Questionable Retention Tactic

LOS ANGELES — A questionable retention tactic that goes way beyond hiding the "cancel" link is reportedly being employed by adult site SexxxPassport.com and its IPSP, Micro Bill Systems (MBS).

A recent posting by McAfee researcher Seth Purdy on McAfee's Avert Labs Blog entitled "Pay Up, Or the Computer Gets It!" details the mechanism the site is using, which will disable a member's computer if he or she fails to cancel a subscription within the trial period and then do not pay the membership fee.

Offering a free three-day trial to customers who download its "authenticator" software, SexxxPassport users who do not cancel their memberships within the allotted time are then recurred for a 90-day membership at a charge of around $80.

Once the billing period has commenced, the pop-ups begin as well.

While it's unclear what fate awaits those who do attempt to cancel within the trial period, the fate of those who do not is clearly laid out in the site's 11-page terms and conditions, which states that timed pop-up windows (which the user cannot close or minimize) will be displayed daily as a reminder to pay the membership fee.

These persistent windows display on top of all other windows and will reappear if the user reboots his computer — a potentially embarrassing and problematic situation on the home front and in the workplace.

According to Section 12.5 of the site's TOS, "If you choose to ignore the payment reminders and do not pay the membership fee, you hereby understand and acknowledge that the prompt reminders may become more frequent and that you may lose the ability to use your computer until you have submitted payment. The payment reminders will be active while your computer is online or offline."

The method by which a membership may be cancelled was not clearly outlined.

Further adding to the consumer abuse are additional fees of around $50 per day for each day the balance remains unpaid, as well as similar fees in the event that the member tries to perform a chargeback.

While most members do not read a site's TOS before joining, despite often indicating that they have read and agree to them, assuming that a trial subscription will be automatically cancelled without the requisite affirmative action required to cancel, can indeed have a hefty price.

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