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Terminating Automatic Bills

by Gary Foreman
Editor, The Dollar Stretcher

It's a great system. Except when it goes wrong. And sometimes it seems as if the selling company wants it to go wrong. Because the longer they can pretend not to know that the customer wants the service stopped, the longer they can charge for it. Some companies are notorious for making it difficult to cancel automatically billed products and services. As in Kristen's case, sometimes their phones always seem busy.

She has already discovered that the credit card company will not be responsible for notifying companies that she wants a service/billing stopped. In fact, she can pretty much expect that they will process any bills that are legally presented to them.

Kristen needs to notify the billing companies in writing that she wants the service/billing to be stopped. She should send the letter via 'certified mail, return receipt requested' so that she has proof that it was received. Check the statement from the company for a heading like "in case of error" or "send inquiries to".

If a statement is not available, Kristen can do a web search for the company. Once on their site she should find a 'contact us' page that will have their mailing address. Be sure to include sufficient information in the letter: account number, how much is being charged, how often and for what goods or services. State clearly that you want it stopped immediately.

At the same time, Kristen should also send a second letter to the credit card company. It, too, should be sent with return receipt. State that you have contacted the billing company in writing and ordered them to stop billing your credit card. Include the company name, the amount being charged and the product/service that has been cancelled. Kristen should keep her copy of both letters and the return receipts when they come back to her.

That should take care of the problem. As to closing the credit card account. Kristen should be able to do that at any time. That, too, should be done via return receipt mail. And Kristen needs to recognize that even if she closes the account to new charges, she's still responsible for paying any balance on the account.

� Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar website and newsletters. You'll find thousands of articles to help stretch your day and your dollar. Visit today!

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