Lee Enterprises Newspapers in Virginia Combine Huge Online Subscription Price Increases with Difficult Cancellations

Notice from The Roanoke Times subscriber services. https://subscriberservicesdsi.lee.net/subscriberservices/Content/Leaving.aspx?Domain=roanoke.com&_mather=2864cc43d3f9efd3

by James C. Sherlock

Lee Enterprises, in a bold move, has massively raised prices for online subscriptions to its Virginia newspapers, to some of which I subscribe.

Lee’s “brands”  here include:

  1. The Daily Progress – Charlottesville
  2. The Free Lance Star – Fredericksburg
  3. Danville Register Bee/Go Dan River – Danville
  4. Bristol Herald Courier – Tricities – Bristol
  5. Martinsville Bulletin – Martinsville
  6. The News and Advance – Lynchburg
  7. The News Virginian – Waynesboro
  8. Richmond Times-Dispatch – Richmond
  9. The Roanoke Times – Roanoke
  10. Culpeper Star-Exponent – Culpeper
  11. SWVA Today – Wytheville
  12. The Franklin News-Post – Rocky Mount

I have for years subscribed to the ones in bold above.  Online ad sales must not be going well.  Lee in a sudden move has roughly tripled online subscription prices.

It also has made it very difficult for customers to cancel.

Perhaps someone should look into this to see if the difficulty of the cancellation is legal.

How to cancel. No online cancellation is available. (See the image above) for subscriptions I made online and automatically renew.

Yet Code of Virginia  § 59.1-207.46. requires:

B. …. Each supplier making automatic renewal or continuous service offers through an online website shall make available a conspicuous online option to cancel a recurring purchase of a good or service. [Emphasis added.]

I’m not a lawyer, and Lee Enterprises, I am sure, has more than one, so it is more than possible that provision somehow does not apply here.

Nonetheless I have asked the Attorney General’s consumer protection folks to examine this case.

The phone call can be trying.

The operators, when you get through to one, are trained to do everything they can to get you to stay. They read a script with multiple offers at multiple prices for various extensions of subscriptions.

I have found it difficult to get them off script.

In one of those calls this morning, I was informed of an “early cancellation fee” of $25 if I did not let my subscription run thorough July 11, the date through which I have already paid.

Bottom line. Lee Enterprises has the freedom to run its business as it wishes within the law. The “easy in, difficult out” model is hardly exclusive to Lee.

Virginians in turn have the freedom to understand the Lee business model — stripped newsrooms, easy subscriptions, huge, sudden price hikes, difficult cancellations — and decide if that is offset by the value of their products.

For many it may be. It’s not personal, just business – on both ends of the transactions.

Including my notification of the Attorney General.