Check the fine print when you sign up for your next race

A word of warning, weekend warriors: Read the fine print when you’re signing up for next race.

Three Austin men say they unknowingly enrolled in an upgraded membership to a company that handles race registrations for fitness events across the country.

Brit Ballard he says unwittingly purchased a $65 per year membership in the Active Advantage program at active.com when he registered up for a bike ride in North Texas last summer. Two co-workers, Ethan Leon and Mason Fischer, say they unknowingly enrolled when they signed up for the Austin Marathon this January.

The yearly membership provides buyers with discounts for merchandise and future race registrations, plus training programs, but Ballard says he didn’t intend to purchase it. He says the upgraded membership was an opt-out purchase, meaning that if someone signing up for an event doesn’t unclick a pre-checked box, he is automatically enrolled in the program.

“I work for a software engineering shop. We build websites for a living. We’re all well versed in navigating registration forms, but somehow we all ended up enrolled in this Active Advantage program. We were all slated to be, or had been, charged $65 for a service we had no idea we’d enrolled in,” Ballard says.

All three later contacted active.com and were unenrolled.

Active.com officials, however, say they no longer utilize an opt-out system.

“This is not an opt-out program and hasn’t been for many years,” said Kim Miller Ballerene of KLM Public Relations, which represents active.com. “There are three ways to gain membership to the Active Advantage program – all which are transparent to the user. There are many benefits to the program and many of our members save a significant amount of money.”

If a customer unknowingly subscribes to the service, she said, the company will happily cancel their membership and provide a refund.

It’s not the first time the allegations have been made against active.com. An article in Outside Magazine’s online edition outlines similar problems.

Ballerene said the article contained inaccuracies, but declined to provide details.

Like most races, the Austin Marathon & Half Marathon contracts with an outside company to provide registration services. John Conley, director of the event, says the race’s contract with active.com ended with the February 2015 race.

“We switched to another online registration service this year (www.imATHLETE.com) for among many reasons was their ‘no add-ons’ registration process on the front-end, and the cleaner reporting on the back-end,” Conley said.

“I don’t think active is doing anything unseemly or illegal, I just think it’s the way those thing go. But the buyer does need to beware.”

The Statesman Capitol 10,000 also contracted with active.com for its registration services, but the Active Advantage program is not an auto opt-out item. Cap10K officials say they will use another registration platform after this year’s race.

“A few years ago there were five major endurance sports registration companies, now there are over 25,” said Cap10K race director Tracey Kennedy. “They all provide different features and experiences. I think every race director has to continually evaluate the options and select a partner that will provide the most positive experience for the registrants and race management.”


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