Officials from leading U.S. rental store Blockbuster have announced that the company is abolishing late fees on all its rentable items, including video games as well as DVDs and VHS tapes, as of January 1st. The company will retain either one week or two day due dates, depending on the age of the title, but customers will now be given an additional one week grace period in which to return it.
If the title is still not returned by that time, then the company will automatically bill the customer for the full price of the item, less the rental fee. Customers will then have thirty days to return the title if they do not want it, less a restocking fee.
The move is seen by many analysts as a reaction to the increasing popularity of postal rental services such as Netflix, as well as the the games-only GameFly service. These businesses allow customers to keep titles as long as they want in return for a fixed monthly fee – a concept which Blockbuster adopted as a separate, rival postal service in August.
"For the past year, the company has been testing a variety of rental options in markets across the U.S.," said a spokesperson. "In no-late-fees test markets, the increased rental transactions and retail sales offset the lower level of revenues resulting from eliminating late fees."
Blockbuster was spun off earlier this year by media conglomerate Viacom, and is in the process of bidding for competitor Hollywood Entertainment, the second largest rental chain in the U.S.