We are living in an increasingly subscription-based world, and we have tried all tips and tricks to evade paying for these services—subscribing only for trial periods, get into services through different email IDs, etc. However, even after all these tested tricks, service providers can still surprise you with heavy fees.
Thankfully, the app DoNotPay has launched a new feature called Free Trial Surfing that purports to take some of the pain out of subscriptions. Specifically, around the free trial periods of subscriptions that people often forget about and then start unwittingly paying for after the free trial ends.
It was developed by Joshua Browder, who as a teenager developed an algorithm called Do Not Pay, which continues to successfully fight parking fines. In 2018, Browder launched a new version of DoNotPay that allowed users to ‘swipe’ on-court settlements and sue.
His new app, Free Trial Surfing, is not linked to a customer’s bank account or credit card, but Mr. Browder says it is in partnership with a major bank.
It uses a virtual credit card number and an ‘invented name’ when you sign up for a free trial, and then it automatically cancels the account before the trial ends and you’re billed for the full subscription. It can even forward emails from a service provider to you without revealing your email.
The app is launching this week in the UK and has reportedly already amassed some 10,000 users thanks to current availability in the US. The way it works: The app supplies you with a virtual credit card number and fake name so that you can try out an app, and “Free Trial Surfing” kicks in to suspend your subscription before the billing begins.
According to Browder, most people are using the service at this point to sign up for free months of Netflix as well as porn services.
The app basically stretches the idea of a free trial, but ethically, it’s hard to argue with what Free Trial Surfing offers – it merely automates an administrative task that would otherwise be a headache to track. Long term, however, it runs the risk of damaging the appeal of trials for service providers, who bank on some users forgetting to cancel them. That could eventually lead to fewer free trials being offered in the first place. Ironically, Browder also said he is considering a monthly subscription model for his Free Trial Surfing app.