Does the Entertainment Consumer Association have the consumer's best interests at heart? The inability to turn off auto-renew for memberships and limiting cancellation requests to snail mail would have users checking the "No" box, if it was actually functional.
Joining the ECA is easy. All you need to do is fill out an online form, pay your $20, and you're in. Canceling Not so much. While a check box to turn off and on membership auto-renewal was once present in the account section of the website, the ECA now reports that this was a mistake, and it never should have been available. Earlier this month, ECA community manager Gypsyfly explained the mysteriously disappearing feature.
What I've been told is that the feature was never suppose to be there as you can tell by the terms which have been the same since the beginning. The design firm who made the site used a module that had it in and they were unaware until an actual users on these forums posted about it. They'll most likely look into an automated system at some point in the future.
Okay, fair enough. Having worked in web development for several years prior to my stint at Kotaku, I can see how this sort of mix up could happen. So why can't members simply cancel via email? Gypsyfly addressed this question two days ago.
Because the org has grown too large to handle the volume and requiring a mailed piece separates those who are serious from those who are lazy or finicky – joining and leaving repeatedly – and it gives us written documentation, a paper trail to reconcile against
Lazy or finicky? Really? One would think that 'finicky' members who constantly canceled and rejoined could be turned into more collected fees. Instead, the organization is too busy to handle a quick computer request, instead relying on regular old snail mail instead. Mail that can be lost, or in some current ECA members' opinions, purposefully misplaced.
Worse, members who flocked to to the organization's website in March for the promise of 10% off game purchases at Amazon now find that benefit to being an ECA member has been discontinued due to exploiters stacking the discount, removing one of the most attractive reasons to join the ECA, aside from the whole consumer advocacy thing.
It all seems rather shady, but in all fairness, there is only one method of cancellation noted in the ECA membership terms and conditions.
A Member may cancel this Agreement and membership in the ECA Service sending such request to Attn: Accounting, ECA, 64 Danbury Road, Suite 700, Wilton, CT 06897-4406. If Member cancels before the end of a Membership Term for which Member has paid the Service Fee, the Member cannot receive a refund of such Service Fee nor any portion thereof. Due to the nature of the services provided by ECA (many of which are accessible immediately upon acceptance) it is understood that refunds cannot be issued.
In order to join the ECA you would have had to have read this, so everyone who is now complaining should have at one point known what they were getting into. I probably wouldn't have read the whole thing either, and in doing so would have missed lovely bits like this:
If the credit card provided by Member to ECA has expired during an attempt to bill fees per section 4, ECA will revise the expiration date and proceed with billing using the same credit card account.
Outrageous, right? It definitely stresses the importance of knowing what you are signing up for.
If you are a current ECA member and would like to cancel, our only suggestion would be to make sure you do so with a traceable mail carrier, to ensure that the organization receives your request.
As for those who thought they had halted the auto-renewal of memberships via the web page, I'd agree that the ECA should, if possible, refund any memberships that have gone through after the box had been checked off. Unfortunately, with the feature turned off, chances of them having records of the option are slim.
Kotaku has contacted the ECA for comment on the situation, but has yet to receive a response as of this writing.
Thanks to everyone who brought this situation to our attention.
ECA Tries To Prevent Members From Canceling [The Consumerist]
"FREE" 1 Year ECA membership... for the price of YOUR SOUL. Read if you applied. [NeoGAF]
ECA: if you canceled your membership online, ECA's stance is you actually did not [CheapAssGamer]