It happens all the time to New Jersey residents, and it can be very annoying.

You sign up for some kind of service, you pay for it with a credit card — and then the service is extended, sometimes at a higher price, because an automatic renewal provision kicks in that you either forgot about or didn’t know existed.

Efforts are moving forward to protect Garden State residents from having this happen in the future. Legislation has been introduced that would establish specific notification standards for service contracts that contain automatic renewal provisions.

“What this bill does is require notification ahead of time so you have time to cancel, and you can cancel in any number of manners,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, the prime sponsor of the legislation.

He said if a service contract has an automatic renewal provision for a specified period of more than a month, the seller would have to disclose the automatic renewal provision clearly and conspicuously in the contract or contract offer.

He said often, an unexpected charge will pop up on your credit card statement “and when you go to check on it, it turns out you’ve already purchased this for a year and you’ve got to wait for another year to try to cancel it again, or if you cancel it right away you’ve still paid that amount.”

Benson said the idea is to stop renewal contracts where “either you have no way of contacting someone to cancel or you’ve long since lost the piece of paper that tells you how to unsubscribe.”

He noted said as things stand now, you may get re-subscribed for something you had wanted “but when the renewal time comes the price may change, there may have been an introductory period that folks are unaware of. “With this, people would only receive those services that they want and are hopefully using, this is just a great way to protect consumers.”

He also said there are renewal contracts we want to keep, but “the key here is we need to make sure we have standards so that consumers can make a fully informed choice when that renewal period comes up, as opposed to an afterthought when you see that charge on your bill.”

Benson also recommended consumers check their statements once a month to make sure there are not any surprise charges, or charges they may not understand, so those charges can be contested.

The measure has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for review.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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