Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rental Subscriptions

While looking into film/game rental methods it seems they're operating using the same schemes as the telecommunication and energy companies - offer variable plans that differ in slightly non-comparable ways. As such if you know exactly what you want they're great, on the other hand if you just want to be able to rent films or games it's head-scratching time. Oh and of course digging out the small print is a must.

The majority seem to operate on the standard monthly subscription basis. This could be simple - pay this much and be able to rent this many items in a month; pay more, get more. Ha yeah as if. Now add on that you can only have a certain number of physical items at a time and separate out films from games.

Take Lovefilm which seems to offer the most number of differing plans. I can go for a £9.99/month subscription which gives me unlimited rentals during that period. Except it doesn't because I'm only allowed one disc at a time. Receive disc on Day 1, watch the same day, post it back on Day 2, Lovefilm receive it on Day 3 and post the next one out which I receive on day 4. Taking into account no post on a Sunday this September would give me a maximum of 9 films per month. Oh and that's with no games. Upgrade for 2 discs at a time and I'll get a maximum of 18 films per month. That's just physical though; those packages come with online viewing too. So in theory while I'm waiting for my discs in the post I can download movies and get a full 30 films a month.

If I want games I can pick exactly the same packages, but with a small extra charge on top. Except games take longer to finish than films. In this instance I can use my 1 disc limit for the game and use my unlimited online viewing for films. If I don't really care about films this works well; or does it? Let's say it takes a week to finish a game I can get 4 games a month; if it takes two weeks I can get 2 games a month.

Let's say it takes a fortnight per game and I'm not bothered about films at all. Suddenly the PAYG schemes look promising. The one tucked at the end of the list gives me 1 disc at a time, but only two rentals. That matches up with what I'm likely to be using and it's half the price. Except how does the PAYG system work? I mean in theory I can pay my £5.99 get my one game and then just not return it - woo hoo cheap games? Time to check the small print.

The PAYG schemes issue credits, but the credits have an expiry period which in this case is three months. That means if I'm holding a disc when all my credits expire I need to buy more or be charged an extra recovery fee. What that really means is I get 2 rentals per quarter, but have the option to top-up if I require more. That's a pretty good deal which is probably why if you looked at Lovefilm's PAYG page it doesn't feature there.

That seems the best bet, until once again you check the slightly confusing small print of section 6.4

Your Pay As You Go account will be automatically topped up with a new batch of credits equal to the batch you last purchased when you have run out or when your credits expire, whichever is sooner (see clause 6.3 (Expiry of credits)). This will automatically occur when we dispatch the first disc from your new batch of credits.
We appear to have a contradiction. New credits will automatically be topped up once the previous set has been either used up or expired, but will only be bought once the first disc to use those credits is despatched. The key is in "topped up". It appears they'll assign new credits, but won't charge until they're first used. If they don't point out that these are new credits that'd be kind of sneaky. A user may think they have credits left from their original payment when in fact they don't and will suddenly get a new charge added to their bill once they try to take advantage of them.

Still doesn't seem bad; provided you're on the ball and record your usage if it doesn't do it for you.