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Bye, Bye, ABI

posted by Jason Kilborn

I have been an American Bankruptcy Institute member since June 1999, but I have finally made the difficult decision to allow my membership to lapse after 22 years at the end of next month. 

I've been thinking about this for some time. Academic friends had been suggesting to me for years that they were uncomfortable with some of ABI's practices, and I was shocked when ABI sharply raised my membership dues for the first time in two decades a few years ago. I've been thinking since then about the value proposition of my membership, and I had begun to notice that I seemed to be getting very little value for my increased dues ... and then I received the first of several renewal notice emails.

When I reviewed the renewal webpage, I recalled my friends' concerns about ABI's objectionable practices as I saw what seemed to me to be a troublesome new practice. For years, I have simply renewed and paid electronically, with no "gotcha" commitments. This year, for the first time, I noticed that I had to select a box indicating that I agreed to have my membership auto-renewed and my credit card auto-charged for future dues. Perhaps it's irrational, but this really stuck in my craw. I envisioned one of those misleading commercials for leggings or bamboo socks that suck you into an auto-renewal scheme, and more importantly, I recalled the FTC's concerns about the abusive auto-renewal trend that seems to have popped up in recent years. States have begun to pass anti-auto-renewal laws to curb this abusive practice. I understand, of course, that auto-renewal is convenient and desirable for many people, and the checkbox on ABI's renewal page would be unobjectionable if it were optional. But forcing members to "agree"--again, for the first time ever--to auto-renew and auto-pay in the following years (or navigate back into the electronic membership labyrinth and manage to figure out how to cancel this auto-renewal in time to avoid it) is a shocking practice for an organization that purports to stand for (among other things) protecting consumers. Unseemly at the very least.

So when I objected to this (in my view) abusive practice and was curtly informed that ABI had no intention of accepting my suggestion to change the single line of code in its renewal page that would allow for online checkout without manually selecting that auto-renew box, I decided the time had come to cut up my ABI membership card. If ABI has decided to deluge email inboxes with multiple renewal reminders--convenient for them--but deny members the convenience of online renewal without subjecting themselves to the abuses of an auto-renewal and auto-charge policy, I am sad to conclude that ABI's advancement of its own administrative convenience at member expense has gone too far.

I'm out. ABI is simply not the same place, apparently, in the post-Sam Gerdano era.


Now I'm going to have to blog my beef about the ABI allowing an amicus brief to be filed in Purdue Pharma's 2nd Circuit Appeal that misleadingly implies it is on behalf of ABI...

Jason, you make a valid point and it is well within your right to publicly announce your non-renewal. But I am not sure why you felt the need to conclude with an unnecessary and misplaced personal swipe at the current ABI leadership. You do not owe anyone a membership - but you should consider an apology.

Agree with both of you. Count me out of ABI.

Brian, just to be clear, I specifically gave ABI management several opportunities to explain why they had adopted this new, pernicious policy--and they refused. This strikes me as a simple failure of post-Gerdano leadership--it's not ad hominem, but a specific challenge to what seem to me to be very poor management decisions. I would have hoped ABI management would rise to the occasion and fix this--they expressly and emphatically did not.

My memory is that this auto-renewal practice is not new, and I remember having raised the issue with ABI also a few years ago.

Bob, I renewed for three years the last time I renewed, so the auto-renew thing probably popped up in the past three years, because I certainly would have noticed it otherwise.

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