I did some pro-bono work for a community organisation a year back which involved establishing a website prototype built from commercial third party services. Some services had a yearly recurring service fee, and during the prototype stage I - rather foolishly in retrospect - paid for a couple of these services with my own credit card in order to speed up the development process*.

The community organisation did compensate me for this at the time and I had every expectation that any recurring billing arrangements currently linked to me would be transferred to the organisation prior to the next yearly payment.

The organisation then had a change in management and direction; from a forward-thinking computer-literate president to one of those crypto-luddites we often assume don't exist in the 21st century. So now the organisation discards various "online" initiatives of the previous president, including this website prototype. This is irritating but I can accept it - it's the nature of pro-bono.

Fast forward half a year, and for various reasons I have given up on helping this organisation**. So I handover all remaining digital assets and instruct them either de-link my credit card from any services they choose to keep - or close the services prior to the next auto-renewal charge. Since a few rare services for some insane reason I can't close myself despite being the owner of the associated billing account (credit card), I choose to trust the organisation to push through the appropriate business letterheads, etc. before I get charged in six month's time. They fail to do this.

I am now intend to interact with the service provider directly and get the service account closed and any errant auto-renewal charges refunded where applicable; regardless of any procedural nitpicking by the service provider's first-level customer helpdesk. I am after all the person actually paying the service. Due the community organisation's self-same sloth and incompetence, the services still have the same passwords and personal contact details as when I first handed over the prototype and instructed them to change these credentials.


Is possession of a digit asset nine tenths of the law?

If I am paying for a service; have no contractual obligation to the organisation for some ongoing gratuity or donation by way of funding this service; and I have (re)changed the passwords to assert sole control of the service account*** - is the service account essentially mine to close?

* The organisation's sloth should have been my first clue.
* * Inept management practices; dispirited membership and volunteer outflow; a sharp swing towards regressive solutions; systemic structural flaws in the parent organisation; and so forth.
* * * They also haven't exerted any "habitual expectation" through use or access to the services I'm paying for.

2 Answers 2


You do not state your location, so that makes things a little bit difficult...

Common sense would suggest that (unless regulated within law) you have no legal obligation to pay for someone else's service - and if a customer is declining to pay, then you have no obligation to continue to provide it.

Regarding the payment aspects, certainly here in the UK, I suggest that the law is on your side (see Financial Conduct Authority):


Most of the banks tend to be supportive (eg this from the Nationwide)

My suggestion would be to follow these steps:

  1. Put in writing that you will not be paying for any further subscriptions (I assume you have done this)
  2. Put in writing to the supplier that your card is no longer to be used
  3. Put in writing to your card supplier that your card is no longer to be used

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  • 1
    I believe you are correct. The country in question derives from English common law. Oct 2, 2013 at 7:48

I'm not a lawyer!!

I'll state that again, I am not a lawyer. However, I would think the initial payment of the services would show intent to support the organization and therefore not allow you to claim ownership at this point. You've already established you'd pay for services benefiting the organization.

You can no longer wish to pay for the services. Providing any organization with a locked in credit card password and account was nothing short of fool hearty if you ask me. Yes the account is yours to close as you wish. It's your credit card, there's no contract in place, and you've provided the organization with more than ample time to ensure you were no longer billed.

Handing over all digital assets also indicated you were providing the organization with everything you had done, and thus relinquishing ownership as well.

While I can sympathize with the frustration, you've already laid groundwork for any claim they may have that they own everything. However, they do not own your credit card. You can relinquish that access at any time, even going so far as to cancel the card and having a new one issued to you.

  • I should note that the community organisation was never given my credit card but rather my pro-bono work required me pay third-party services and invoice the organisation. Once I broke association with the organisation, I should be able sever without restraint any third-party service that they didn't take financial ownership. Or so I assume. I'm ok with the work itself being owned by the organisation (it isn't actually), but if for example this was a cloud-service app I shouldn't have to pay for the cloud costs. Oct 1, 2013 at 22:50
  • I understood you never actually handed over a CC number. But leaving an auto-bill to your CC in place when handing over assets was a mistake.
    – Scott
    Oct 1, 2013 at 22:52
  • Yes. I'm kicking myself now; why did I assume that charities are inherently reliable? Thankfully I probably do own the assets insofar as the assets were simply a fusion of online services of which I now solely own the passwords for. Since the charity explicitly dropped the old president's initiatives in meeting minutes where I pointed out I would delete discarded & unused web assets, I doubt they could re-claim ownership. I had just assumed (as did the 3rd party it seems) that part of the "deletion" process would be done by them, instead of forgotten until 3rd-party auto-renewal occurred. Oct 1, 2013 at 23:33

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