What could be worse than increasing the price of a subscription by trying to hide it from the customer? This is what Free has done by automatically subscribing to its millions of permanent mobile subscribers (except for the $2.22 (€2) packages) to the Youboox One option. This “service” gives access to 250,000 books, comics and press titles for $1.10 (€0.99) per month, representing an increase of 2 to 10% depending on the packages. This allows the operator to increase its average revenue per subscriber (ARPU), the most important economic indicator for the sector.
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“A message has been sent to all the subscribers concerned, they are aware of it,” assured a group spokeswoman. The email is called “Information about the Youboox One service” when you have never heard of this service, you immediately think of it as spam. If you open the message the headline is also not clear.
“You will soon be able to enjoy additional content on Youboox One!” notification from the operator. It is necessary to wait until the end of the third paragraph to find the essential information. “We have decided to make you automatically benefit from this service (…) from February 1, 2020, for only $1.10 (€0.99) per month.”
A legal practice
While Free automatically enrolls all its customers, it reminds them that this offer is “without obligation.” “Anyone can terminate the option with a single click,” said the spokesperson. All you have to do is “connect” to the customer area using the identifiers (sequences of numbers and letters that are difficult to remember) provided in the subscription email received years ago, then click on “Manage Youboox One” and finally on “Disable.”
While this practice is not illegal as long as clients are notified, it is frankly immoral. It is even contrary to the promises of Free. Indeed, the price brochure in effect at the time of writing (December 9) states that “after January 31, 2020, the Youboox One Service option will automatically be deleted from Free offers, without any intervention on the part of the subscriber.” “This brochure will be updated before February,” it is promised at Free. But those who read it when they signed their contract will still be deceived.
All operators are concerned
As for Youboox, which has a total of half a million paying users, founder Hélène Mérillon said, “I am very happy with the operator’s approach.” “Free can choose its pricing policy, like all our partners,” she explained, judging the method “quite transparent.” Depending on the number of Free subscribers who will retain the option by February 2020, Youboox could end up with millions more active users overnight. “We will be able to manage it,” the leader promised.
The best way for users to avoid these kind of charges is to keep an eye on their bills, make sure to completely read all emails from your provider, and uncheck every single box you don’t want.
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First published in LePoint, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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