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Subscription services are the new big thing in America’s evolving on-demand economy, as our busy lives dictate that goods should come to us instead of the other way round.
But, whether your monthly shipments of running gels are piling up, your home-cooking ingredients are getting moldy in the hallway, or you never read that magazine that's been coming for years, most people need a little help managing their recurring commitments — and those are the ones we know about.
Enter Truebill, a free service that automatically digs up your long-lost subscriptions and closes the loop. And yes, that even includes notoriously hard-to-cancel gym memberships.
“Subscriptions are a great thing,” said Truebill cofounder and CEO Yahya Mokhtarzada. “But with no platform to manage them, having too many subscriptions becomes overwhelming for users. We want to solve this headache for consumers and give people an easy way to discover, manage and customize their subscriptions.”
To locate long-forgotten subscriptions, Truebill uses an algorithm to sift through a user’s credit card statements and bank accounts (even international accounts). It also monitors user accounts monthly to alert you to rate hikes or additional fees, and follows up to make sure cancellations were successfully processed.
To guarantee security, login credentials are handled by Plaid, a third-party interface that "regularly undergoes both internal and external network penetration tests, third-party code reviews, and PCI re-certification," Mokhtarzada said.
The savings can be huge: When Edoardo Rossi of Young Harris, Georgia, signed up, he was astonished to find he had been paying $3,600 a year for subscriptions he never used. "I felt bad about that," he admitted when the Truebill app revealed the extent of the overlooked costs. One example was a monthly bill for OnStar roadside assistance — for a car he no longer even owned. "That's $24 for someone else who is enjoying my vehicle," he told NBC News' Olivia Sterns.
To date, Truebill users have canceled over $300,000 in annual subscription fees, according to the site’s founders.
“Around 17 percent of people who sign up cancel a subscription on our platform, and the average person who uses Truebill saves $512 per year. In many cases, we are even able to negotiate and save users even more,” Mokhtarzada said, referring to instances when a cancellation threat led to a company offering a lower price.
The idea for the service came about one day after Mokhtarzada, who was vice president of business development for Nanigans advertising platform, discovered a mystery $40 fee on one of his credit cards.
“Upon digging into it, I realized I'd actually been paying $40 a month for 14 months for an [inflight Wi-Fi] subscription I had no idea I was paying for — and hadn't been using,” he said.
“I mentioned this to my brother and it immediately struck a chord. He had a similar experience, and the light bulb in our heads immediately turned on and we thought ‘Let's solve this.’"
His brother, Idris Mokhtarzada, now co-founder and chief technology officer at Truebill, co-founded the website host webs.com, which was sold to Vistaprint in 2011.
“We're both very interested in consumer financial empowerment,” Yahya said. “Truebill’s goal is to protect our users to make sure they're never overcharged, and never pay for anything that they don't want.”
Subscription cancellation services aren't an entirely new concept, but Mokhtarzada felt that the current crop of apps left a lot to be desired.
"Overall, I think Truebill has a more expansive vision — not just making cancellation super easy, but also helping monitor subscriptions to make sure people aren't paying for more wireless bandwidth than they need, and even making management more simple — like pausing something while on vacation," Mokhtarzada said.
With an eye to future revenue, the site's creators said there’s an eventual strategy to link to third parties in a similar vein to Mint's in-app suggestions, with each new signup earning a referral fee for Truebill.
"Truebill is working to position itself as the 'trust-layer' between consumers and subscription services," said Mokhtarzada. "This includes monitoring subscriptions for unexpected rate increases, protecting against over-billing, and making sure consumers can easily cancel any subscriptions they no longer want. Our hope is that by proving this layer of trust, users will ultimately use Truebill to sign up for new services, which subscription companies themselves would pay us a fee for."
Simply put: “People get enthusiastic when you save them money,” said Mokhtarzada.