Just months after a 15 percent increase in subscription rates, the Chronicle Herald is again increasing rates, this time by charging extra for its magazine. The company explained the rate increase in a message it emailed to subscribers (including the Examiner) today:

Starting with the October 25, 2014 edition of Herald Magazine, The Chronicle Herald will begin charging to receive a copy of the magazine. The cost will be $2.00 per issue or $16.00 per year, plus HST, and will be delivered with your Chronicle Herald when the magazine publishes during its eight times per year cycle. 

The Chronicle Herald of course has every right to charge whatever it wants for its products, but this rate increase comes automatically, without customers having to give positive assent:

For customers who pay via a monthly debit to their credit card or bank account, we will simply add the cost of Herald Magazine to your monthly debit amount. It equates to just $1.33 plus HST ($1.53) per month and will begin on November 1 or 16, depending on which debit date you currently have.

For customers who have paid their annual subscription in advance we will simply apply the cost of the magazines to be published to the end of your subscription term, and adjust your expiry date slightly to accommodate the new charge.

There is an insidious opt-out provision, helpfully given in bold, but customers who miss the email are just out of luck: they get charged anyway.

We’re sure you won’t want to miss out on the great offerings of Herald Magazine, but if you do choose to no longer receive it simply click here before October 20, 2014 and you will be taken to our online opt-out form which you can complete to have yourself removed from the delivery list.

It’s “a form of negative billing to squeeze more dough out of its subscribers,” says Examiner reader Richard Starr in an email:

I think this is actually more devious than the extra billing by cable companies which caused such a stir (at least in the print media) a few years back. The cable companies were at least offering something new and then billing you for it if you didn’t opt out. Under the Herald scheme, you lose regardless—you either pay more for the same product, or pay the same amount for a lesser product.

These are very difficult times for dead-tree daily newspapers like the Chronicle Herald, with advertising revenue falling like a rock:

Newspaper ad revenue

I certainly understand the need to bring in subscription revenue, and I honestly wish the Chronicle Herald well: the loss of the paper would be tragic for Halifax. But the diabolical opt-out policy won’t win the paper any friends.

Update, 3:15pm: Examiner reader  points us to Section 24(a) of Nova Scotia’s Consumer Protection Act, which reads:

Negative-option strategy
24A (1) For the purpose of this Section, a seller uses a negative-option strategy in delivering a service where the seller delivers a service to a buyer after having, on or after April 26, 1994, first notified the buyer to the effect that

  1. (a)  the seller proposes to deliver the service; and
  2. (b)  the service will be delivered and the buyer will be

billed for the service unless the buyer, on or before the time specified in the notice or during a particular time period, instructs the seller not to deliver the service, and the buyer neither instructs the seller not to supply the services nor authorizes or requests the seller to deliver the services.

(2) No seller shall use a negative-option strategy in the delivery of a service.

(3) Where a negative-option strategy is used in the delivery of a service, no action lies for the payment of any fee or purchase price for the service. 

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I wish I could opt out of the garbage bag full of paper they throw in my yard every week. How do they get away with that?

    1. I also spoke to the fellow delivering the dreaded ‘pink bag of junk paper’ and asked him to leave me off his list. He was very nice about it. and I haven’t had any since.

      I sure wish I could opt out of the bundle of advertising that is in the centre of the Chronicle Herald each day. I’d pay them to stop including it. I’m just not into buying unnecessary stuff.