They've resorted to pick-pocketing.
First, a little history:
Back when online comics were a relatively new thing and Dilbert creator Scott Adams pretty much scared the shit out of the syndicates by putting every single Dilbert cartoon up on his site for free, Universal and other syndicates panicked. They went and got what they considered "smart" about digital delivery and set up Uclick, a subscription service where - for a small fee (back then, $10 bucks a year) you could subscribe to any or all of their comics, columns or puzzles and have them emailed to you daily. It was pretty great - a simple system that was relatively cheap that would consolidate for me all the stuff I wanted to read.
But then, two things happened: 1) RSS and 2) I wanted to read less and less of their crap.
At first, RSS struck me as a convenience. I didn't really see the need to go set up feeds from all the providers just to get my funnies. Cool idea, but too much of a hassle to really use. Besides, Uclick was doing this for me really easily, I didn't have to fuss around with finding what I wanted anymore - I already set that up day one, and now Dilbert and Catbert and Dogbert and that retarded kid from Zitz were all partying in my inbox, every morning. I probably had 25 - 30 strips I read back then.
Then, the strips started sucking, and I found myself skipping one, then two, then 10 or so at a time. Around that time, RSS began becoming simpler to use - you could click an icon and boom, an RSS feed would open in your reader and subscribe itself. Easy.
So one day, when Fox Trot was the only comic I was reading without sighing with disappointment, I just cancelled my stupid Uclick thing and moved on to RSS, where I took one and only one comic with me - Fox Trot.
Fast-forward to today, August 4, 2009 when, for a reason I'm assuming they thought was worth it (if you consider anything worth stealing for), UClick pulled a clever little trick I call "forgiveness is easier to get than permission" and sent this email:
Subject: Your Scheduled Payment has been ProcessedDate: Tue, 04 Aug 2009 05:11:10 -0700 (PDT)From: email@example.comTo: firstname.lastname@example.orgCongratulations! Your subscription (GoComics.com, uPuzzles.com, or Comics Sherpa) was successfully renewed this morning. This charge will appear as UCLICK LLC on your credit card statement.-----------------------------------------Order Number: EXJE4A19ADC1Authorization Code: 111141Transaction Date: 04-Aug-09 05:11 AMTransaction Amount: 11.95Comment: 247793Response: Approved-----------------------------------------If you have any questions regarding your account, please feel free to reply to this email.Sincerely,Uclick Customer Service
The problem? I cancelled my subscription back in 2002.
Now, the big rub is that a few years ago, credit cards began a policy where, if you authorized any sort of automatic subscription or automated payment, the charge would continue to go through until you cancelled it - even if you cancelled the card or changed the number. And when I called AmEx, they explained that, yes, that card had been cancelled (it was a personal card I carried before I started my own company), but that the subscription was still authorized so they still charged it.
So I sent this in return:
From: Joe The Peacock [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Joe Peacock
Sent: Tuesday, August 04, 2009 7:19 AM
To: uclick Support
Subject: Re: Your Scheduled Payment has been Processed
What the hell?? I haven't subscribed to this since 2002! How did this
get renewed? Please deactivate this immediately and credit whatever
card you used.
Subject: RE: Your Scheduled Payment has been Processed
Date: Tue, 4 Aug 2009 09:09:41 -0500
From: uclick Support
To: 'Joe Peacock'
The account has been cancelled and refunded. This charge reversal will be listed on your next paper credit card statement.
We'd appreciate your feedback! Was there anything in particular about the service that you had problems with? What could we do to improve our service?
Please let us know.