There has been a lot written about the Daily Herald’s decision to start charging for online access, known as their “Subscriber Total Access” program. What hasn’t been mentioned is the windfall amount of added revenue they will be raking in from current subscribers due to the way they structured their “opt out” requirement. If current subscribers DO NOT opt-out by September 7th their invoices will AUTOMATICALLY be charged an additional $1.00 per WEEK. Now, on the surface this may not seem like a lot but let’s take a look at their current ‘paid’ subscriber numbers.
It was reported in October 2010 that the Daily Herald subscriptions dropped about 6.5 percent to 104,297 copies weekdays and fell around 5.7 percent Sundays to 112,110 copies.
Current subscribers received a 3-page letter in the mail dated August 29th from Douglas K. Ray explaining the details of the Subscribers Total Access program as well as indicating increased subscriptions. In the letter it stated that:
The Daily Herald had the fourth-highest increase in combined print and online audience in the United States in an October report by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. This was followed by the third-highest increase in combined audience in the audit bureau’s May report
In the 3-page letter received by subscribers, there was NO phone number, NO mail-back form, NO online instructions, NO instructions whatsoever on HOW to “opt-out” of the proposed billing increase. The letter was conveniently three pages long and if anyone bothered to read it to the end, they would have seen the following short paragraph:
Your inclusion in the Subscriber Total Access program will be optional. We know that not everyone will wish to support the program, and those who do not will have the ability to decline and simply pay for print only. However, if you do not opt-out of the Subscriber Total Access program, your continued subscription to the Daily Herald will include the additional $1 per week.
It says absolutely NOTHING in the mailer that this $1/week charge would take effect on September 7, 2011.
State Farm Insurance policy holders recently received a similar mailing requiring ‘action’ on their part. Policy holders who did NOT want their uninsured and under-insured coverage to ‘match’ the amounts of their liability coverage had to physically “opt-out” in writing. I’m sure that other insurance companies did the same type of mailing since insurance companies were losing so many lawsuits based on language that included who was an ‘applicant’ and who was an ‘insured’. Too many claims were made from policies that either had changes in insureds or changes in liability coverage that should have triggered a NEW opt-out form being signed.
The language of the statute is the best determinant of the legislature’s intent. Lee, 208 Ill. 2d at 43. That language refutes the defendant’s interpretation of “applicant” as referring solely to one seeking insurance for the first time. The very first sentence of section 143a–2 states that no automobile liability insurance “shall be renewed or delivered or issued for delivery in this State *** unless uninsured motorist coverage as required in Section 143a of this Code is included in an amount equal to the insured’s bodily injury liability limits unless specifically rejected by the insured.”
215 ILCS 5/143a–2(1) (West 1998). This language expressly contemplates that a person who is already “insured,” whose policy is being “renewed,” is entitled to choose whether to “specifically reject” equal UM coverage. Under this plain language, the scope of those who must receive the opportunity to select or reject equal UM coverage cannot be limited to first-time applicants.
What State Farm and other insurance companies did was required by law when it came to signed “opt out” instructions from policy holders. What the Daily Herald is doing, by AUTOMATICALLY increasing your invoice if you fail to “act”, doesn’t even come close to a legal requirement.
The Daily Herald’s opt-out requirement (requiring an “action” on your part or face additional charges) may be totally illegal and should be investigated by the State’s Attorney’s office. They are not required by any law to have their subscribers “opt-out” or else be charged $1/week. No, this is nothing more than a money grab dreamed up by the Daily Herald knowing full well that a 100% of their subscribers would fail to “act”, thus setting the additional monthly charges in motion AUTOMATICALLY. This non-action on the part of subscribers will be an instant windfall for the Daily Herald.
How much of a windfall will it be for the Daily Herald? Let’s plug in a few numbers. Although the subscriber base may have increased based on their 3-page letter indications, let’s just use 108,000 based on an average from October 2010 (104,000 weekly, 112,000 weekends = rough average of 108,000). Let’s say that ONLY 50% of current subscribers read the entire 3-page August 29th mailer and responded to the opt-out option (kudos for figuring out how). That would mean that 54,000 subscribers who did not “act” and “opt-out” will be AUTOMATICALLY billed an additional $1/week. In the 3-page mailer, again conveniently at the very end, the Daily Herald also stated that billing would now be every four weeks (currently about every eight weeks) The failure of 50% of their subscribers to respond would then equate to a windfall of $216,000 (54,000 x $1 = $54,000 x 4 weeks = $216,000). You read that correctly, $216,000, EVERY FOUR WEEKS! Even if only half of these remaining 54,000 subscribers were not interested but failed to “opt-out”, it would still generate $108,000 every four weeks in additional revenue for the Daily Herald. You can see why the Daily Herald will be laughing all the way to the bank!
Since the 3-page mailer failed to offer any guidelines to follow in order to “opt-out”, here is what you need to do if you are a current subscriber and DO NOT want your bill to increase by $4.00 per new 4-week billing cycle: CALL 847-427-4300, press ZERO to get a live operator, get the operators name for your records, tell them that you want to “opt-out”. They will need your phone number to verify your name & address.
UPDATE: A recently added “opt-out” online page has just been located at the following location: DAILY HERALD OPT-OUT
I urge you to do this NOW to keep those sacks and sacks of money bags at the Daily Herald from bulging with your hard earned cash from this “opt-out” scam.