Legislation could prevent unexpected bills


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It is known as the negative opt out. Consumers are expected to tell a company they do not want something, otherwise they continue to get it, along with an unexpected bill.

Thia Buggia has a collection of magazines she says she does not want and did not know she ordered.

It started after she bought a pair of pants at Motherhood Maternity.

"About a month or so after I received my first Parenting Magazine, and I just figured it was junk mail, so I recycled that; then I got a few more in the mail and then I noticed a charge on my bank account online," Buggia said.

There was a charge for $20. Buggia recalls being told by a clerk at Motherhood Maternity that the magazine would be free.

"So I said, 'Sure, it's it totally free? And she said, 'Yes, it's completely free.' She didn't mention anything about membership or anything like that so I figured it was fine," Buggia said.

In an e-mail to 7 On Your Side, Motherhood Maternity wrote that its "sale associates explain the promotion to the customer clearly...if the customer does not cancel the subscription, her credit card will be charged $20...the associate hands the customer a brochure that details the offer...the customer signs a sale receipt agreeing to the promotion."

But Buggia does not recall any of that happening and points to the Internet, where there are others across the country with complaints similar to hers about the same promotion.

State Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has received numerous complaints about similar promotions.

"And that kind of ongoing practice is something that has caught a lot of people by surprise and unfortunately consumers are on the take with these particular deceptive practices," he said.

A bill sponsored by Yee and passed unanimously by both the Assembly and Senate requires terms of an offer to be written in a clear and conspicuous manner. Violators could be fined $2,500 per occurrence and be subject to civil action.

"Once it's clear and conspicuous and you're told this is what's going to happen, then if you don't want it, then you ought not be signing up for these particular products," Yee said.

As for Buggia, Parenting Magazine has given her a full refund and Motherhood Maternity says its sorry she had a negative experience.

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