How to cancel recurring PayPal payments
On almost exactly the first working day after Christmas, I was irritated by £39.99 being spirited out of my bank account by PayPal, sent on my behalf to Microsoft – with absolutely no trackback or narrative to the transaction at all.
This type of transaction is a modern plague and whole lifetimes of reading material on ultimately frustrating and self-indulgent Adventures in Billing stories can easily be found on this subject, starring pretty much every major brand you can think of: Microsoft, PayPal, Google and more. The most commonly cited bad guy in this field is Netflix, whose free startup offer collects your payment details and then seamlessly slides into charging you, by way of PayPal’s repeat-payment system. The email notifying you of the transfer only ever comes after the money’s been sent, not before.
Clicking on all those Cancel buttons was a terrific feeling
Those old enough not to view the web as run by elves with cute little typewriters will know that this is a deliberate choice by a system designer, rather than hapless bad luck, such as going out in the rain in flip-flops. It’s no accident that your right to choose has been quietly swept aside, which fuels the conspiracy theories shouted by the angry bloggers, and drowns out the simple, calmer, less paranoid ways of resolving the problem.
Allow me, then, to show you how to easily stop these recurring payments. The debit was between Microsoft and PayPal, and my identity with Microsoft is a very peculiar thing. I’ve had it for a very long time and it’s linked to a huge swathe of services, from MSDN to Xbox 360 to Azure, to bits of the internal beta of things that didn’t make it into production in Server 2012 R2, any of which might be responsible for that mystery £40 charge.
So I rang Microsoft in the UK, and after only about five voice menu systems I found the billing enquiries section. I had an excellent chat with a fellow Irishman (or so he thought, from my name anyway) and we reached the conclusion that the transaction was, in Microsoft’s opinion, probably fraudulent, because neither he nor I could see any trace of it in the summary pages of my Microsoft account history, which stretches back at least two years. He advised me to contact PayPal without delay.
PayPal had a rather shorter series of phone menus to negotiate, and its opinion was rather different. PayPal said that £39.99 was a classic Xbox payment amount and that many similar amounts had been transferred in the first week of the year. Then my countryman helpfully suggested I just cancel the automatic repeat, pointing out that non-automatic annual or periodic bills are managed by sending out reminders as the bill date draws closer.
So I didn’t only zap the disputed once-per-year £40 to Microsoft, which it seems Microsoft collects but can’t relate to my account; I also nuked the other one to Netflix, and discovered one I’d quite forgotten about to Linden Research, the Second Life holding company.
If you want to do the same, all you have to do is log in to PayPal, click on Profile (currently far-right on the grey menu bar on the homepage once you’ve signed in), then choose My Money, and click on the last plain-background link: My pre-approved payments. There you will see a list of recipients, which can be cancelled right there.
I have to say, clicking on all those Cancel buttons was a terrific feeling. Sure, I may discover at some point that, when I fancy tangling with Netflix, I have to hand over some money. But isn’t that how things ought to work, anyway?