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Tried to cancel a service but couldn't? Report it. ReportFraud.ftc.gov

Have you ever been unhappy with a service — like your phone or Internet — and tried to cancel it? But, when you tried, you found it difficult or nearly impossible? Learn about the ways companies illegally trick or trap people who use their services, steps to take, and your rights.

Today, the FTC announced that Vonage, a phone company, didn’t give customers an easy way to cancel their telephone services. Instead, the FTC says the company used a series of hurdles. These “dark patterns” made people hunt for the cancellation phone number; when they were able to call to cancel, they were often passed from agent to agent with repeated sales pitches; and, if they succeeded in cancelling, many wound up being charged surprise high-cost Early Termination Fees (“ETFs”). In many instances, even when people managed to navigate Vonage’s process and cancel their accounts, the FTC says Vonage continued to charge them without their permission.

As part of the settlement, Vonage must pay $100 million that the FTC will send to the small businesses and customers who were harmed by the company’s practices. Vonage must also stop using dark patterns, let people know important information at sign-up, make it simple for people to cancel, and get their consent for every charge.

If you’re considering a product or service check out the company’s policies on:

  • Easy and simple cancellation. It should be as easy to cancel as it was to sign up in the first place. Before you place an order, look at the company’s refund and return policies, and whether you’ll be charged any cancellation fees.
  • Automatic renewal. As soon as you know you don’t want to renew your plan, look at the company’s cancelation policy. Make sure it won’t automatically renew before you can cancel it. For more on avoiding charges in auto-renewal plans read Getting In and Out of Free Trials Auto-Renewals and Negative Option Subscriptions.

58 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Eric McBrearty
November 03, 2022

Did vonage loose their privilege to conduct business in the American market? Are there 2nd tier punishments for repeat offenses if they continue to defraud the public?

Bob Pescatore
November 03, 2022

SIrrius radio is one of the worse. They talk off a script when you try to cancel to get you to renew and talk right over you, I literally lost a radio in a flood in my basement. The guy kept trying to get me to keep the service even though i kept saying i no longer have the radio. I finally had to scream at him to be quiet and listen. The his reply was I guess we have to drop your account and issue a refund

Jared
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Bob Pescatore

Yes! I refused to ever sign up with them again! Took over an hour to cancel my service with them and in the end I had to get downright ugly to get them to do it.

Mike J.
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Bob Pescatore

I had the same experience. It took me 20 minutes of saying "No - just cancel it. I don't use it" for them to 'let me' cancel my service that I didn't want or use.

Ron Kay
November 03, 2022

Laidies and gentlemen, this article did speak of a particular problem, however it gave no information to the reader, as to how to cancel such transactions. generally, this was a complete waste of time.

FTC Staff
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Ron Kay

For more on avoiding charges in auto-renewal plans, click on the link in this blog to read Getting In and Out of Free Trials Auto-Renewals and Negative Option Subscriptions.

Sal
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Ron Kay

I agree, the “report fraud” photo is not even a link. Since it doesn’t feel like fraud per say not sure which route to take when company makes life miserable to cancel.

Dee
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Ron Kay

There was quite a bit of information - did you not read the article and explore the link? First, they stress the importance of reviewing and understanding a company's cancellation and auto-renewal policies, then they included a fantastic link with valuable information on how free trials can cost you, how to stop subscriptions and report problems, etc.

The link on the FTC Action Against Vonage was quite detailed. It included the FTC complaint and outlines the practices of Vonage that harmed consumers. It included the enforcement provisions and a copy of the agreed order (permanent injunction and money award).

This article was very helpful. It helps consumers evaluate offers and tells them what to look for BEFORE supplying their credit card information. It also tells you how to stop a subscription and reports provlems caceling subscriptions. We need to not be lazy! Explore the article.

How To Stop a Subscription

If you want to stop a subscription you’re enrolled in:

First, contact the company that runs the subscription you want to cancel. If the company has instructions on how to cancel, follow those. Keep a copy of your cancellation request, along with notes about any conversations you had and how and when you canceled.

Watch your bank or credit card statements. Check for charges on your debit or credit card after you canceled the subscription. If a company won’t stop charging your account after you’ve tried to cancel a subscription, file a dispute (also called a “chargeback”) with your credit or debit card.

Online: Log onto your credit or debit card online account and go through the dispute process. If you haven’t set up an account with your credit or debit card company, check out the company’s website to find out how to file a dispute.

By phone: Call the phone number on the back of your card, and tell the company why you’re filing a dispute.

Follow up with a letter to your credit or debit card company. To protect any rights you may have, follow up in writing by sending a letter to the address listed for billing disputes or errors. Use our sample letter. It’s a good idea to send your letter by certified mail and ask for a return receipt so you have proof of what the creditor received.

Save your records. Keep any letters, notes, or emails related to the scam — they could help prove you’re entitled to a refund if the credit or debit card company has any questions.

Find more about your rights at ftc.gov/credit.

Report Problems

If you have problems canceling a subscription, or you’ve been charged for a subscription you didn’t agree to, report it to

the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov <-- hyperlinks provided in article
your state attorney general <-- hyperlinks provided in article

Demetrius
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Ron Kay

Omg you read my mind! I was thinking the exact same thing. I opened the email expecting some clear instructions on how to handle such situations and nothing...thank you

I. Leuca
November 03, 2022

Enshrine in in law to be as easy to cancel as it was to sign up.
When you cancel (1) the cancellation should take effect immediately and (2) money due should be returned in 5 business days.

Nicole Takahashi
November 03, 2022

Thank you!!! I think everyone has probably experienced this. It is so frustrating. It took me nearly a year to cancel a subscription service last year even after calling and leaving voicemails, sending emails, cancelling on the website - yet month after month the charge would re-appear. I contact BBB and thankfully they were able to help. The smaller no contract cell companies are a nightmare.
I also think the practice of allowing auto pay to carry over to new debit cards should be verbotten. I have ordered new cards only to see that old auto payments were charged to those new cards without my permission. I don't know how that happens but it does.

R. Washington
November 04, 2022

In reply to by Nicole Takahashi

In some instances, I had to call my bank to stop payment on those companies.

Deborah Taylor
November 03, 2022

I had a similar situation with a propane company. When I called to cancel my account and remove their tank I was told I was in 3 year contract with them. I told them I don`t remember signing a 3 year contract. They said I did but I did not get a copy of it at the time. They sent me a copy of the said contract upon my request. The signature and date was, as it looked, photo copied from other forms that I had copies of. They then charged me $250.00 for breaking the contract.

Deborah Taylor
November 08, 2022

I had a similar situation with a propane company. When I called to cancel my account and remove their tank I was told I was in 3 year contract with them. I told them I don`t remember signing a 3 year contract. They said I did but I did not get a copy of it at the time. They sent me a copy of the said contract upon my request. The signature and date was, as it looked, photo copied from other forms that I had copies of. They then charged me $250.00 for breaking the contract.

Terry-NJ
November 03, 2022

Good to know you are there to help consumers when they get caught in these aggravating business practices. We consumers should not have to be subjected to this kind of stuff. I have found something like this with Verizon when you call them...get placed on hold hearing all kinds of business pitches and after wasting at least 5 minutes of your time on hold you get customer service people whose main interest is selling you services you do not want. I had one person who tried to get me to "upgrade" my services BEFORE I could get her to take care of the reason why I called in the first place - I told her if I was not happy with their service in the first place why would I want to add more services ??? This is what happens with some of these companies.

Bobbi Steele
November 03, 2022

And keep copies of ALL transactions.

KH
November 03, 2022

Beware Xfinity. They hijack credit cards; you can't remove them and they make excuses about delays when attempting to cancel. They also "add" to your services and charge you more.

Abiel Pena
November 03, 2022

When you have Boost-mobile , they don't want to let you go to another carrier until you get an unlock code from them.

Mark Garcia
November 03, 2022

I've had this kind of problem before. Great article. Thank you for sharing

Mark
November 03, 2022

One thing I learned in dealing with companies like this phone company, call them. Tell them nicely you want to cancel the service. If they tell you, have you must jump over hoops, say no (nicely). Use a recorder & take many notes. Include who you talk to, the date & time. Tell them you want this canceled because (and give the reason(s)--but be honest). Why pay for something you don't want or didn't order? If canceled, get a confirmation number for it. ALSO, TELL THEM (NICELY) IF THIS IS NOT CANCELED TODAY, then I have no choice but to do 2 things: File a complaint with our State Attorney's General office & also with the FTC, and don't think I won't. 99% of the time--account is canceled with confirmation. Plus, it can be verified and back with all your notes and the recording if needed. I got burned once, and never again.

Munziotti
November 03, 2022

Truthfully I love FTC for letting us know how to deal with contract and canceling! I will stick with FTC to deal with aggravating situation. Thanks Chris

Mr. Brown
November 03, 2022

I have experienced this with Comcast. I was trapped for years. I called and went to the main office to cancel after going up from 150 to 259 to 345. When you try to cancel and turn in equipment there's no receipt after I returned the equipment. Then they tried to put you in a bigger promotion for two years. I denied the offer. I threatened them with litigation and they cancelled immediately charging me 450 cancellation fee. I paid it then they still put it on my credit. It took months to get it off my report. My score dropped 125 points. I got denied a house. I know 2 other neighbor they did that way.

Nell
November 03, 2022

Comcast/Xfinity does the same exact thing.

Sandra Staples
November 04, 2022

Thank you for this information. I recently went through 2 of these issues with Century Link & ADT. I finally went for help with the Better Business Bureau for ADT & my credit card for Century Link. Was totally amazing how quickly I got my money back! (both were on auto paid).

Lynda Griffin
November 04, 2022

It is not JUST phone companies that trick and trap individuals into various subscription/plans. Most of the elderly get trapped into magazine, computer internet programs, food/grocery offers, and some insurance {car, home, life, health| scams.

Pete Wes
November 04, 2022

Yes, about 3-4 yrs ago I was attempting to quit Vonage (since their international service was much more expensive than elsewhere) and I had horrible time doing so (multiple calls to "support", no simple way of quitting on-line, very hard time of switching to Spectrum - but charging extra 1 month, no allowing me to retain old calling #, etc). Very bad experience.

Lee
November 07, 2022

American home shield absolutely refuses to send a copy of the contract and to not cancel and refund my money. Also refusing to fix a reported problem. They said it is not covered however without a contract I couldn't check to see if coverage was available. I need help. They say how good they are to get your money then decline coverage and won't cancel and refund for the months I have been trying to cancel.

RG
November 07, 2022

Banfield is also doing the same thing. They don't cancel the service for our pets. In some cases, the pets die and they still charge the people. It shouldn't be this hard to cancel a service that we don't like and we can't use.

steve
November 04, 2022

that was not helpful at all. i have 99cent charge from apple i cant cancel--
tried many times,but no success

Dee Rona
November 04, 2022

Thank you for addressing this issue. I'm 70, and use lists and calendars to keep track of every subscription or free trial that says it will auto-renew. I'm to the point of PASSING UP anything that offers free sample or free trial because, increasingly, when I look for the "fine print", it invariably has an auto-renew attached. I read an article saying this practice has been extremely profitable for every business that uses it, especially for products and services appealing to older people because of their increasing forgetfulness or failure to think they might need to check for an insidious clause in "fine print" in the first place!

Anne
November 04, 2022

This has happened to me many times and is/was very difficult to cancel a service, in some cases I never signed up for.

Robert Anger
November 04, 2022

Choice home warranty did a very similar practice to me. After my one-year paid up front contract expired they started taking out a monthly unauthorized charge.

Richard D Townsend
November 04, 2022

This is very much like a company called, “click pay“. They structure an automatic payment product and made it so complicated that it did not process and was charged a $50 late fee. What they did was make a whole separate area that you’re not lead to for a specific checking account, a business checking account. So when filling out the online application, this is no option. In other words anyone that signs up and is using a business checking account is most definitely going to get a $50 late fee and they do not have any grace, no reasonable settlement, nothing. Now, I’m dealing with the same company who has charged me legal fees near $3000 and the FTC has not done anything about it.

Peaceful
November 04, 2022

thank you for the education. What an awesome read! Best wishes out there...it's a jungle!

Daniel R Gannon
November 04, 2022

I went through virtual hell trying to cancel DirecTv since they modified my agreement with them for tv service. First, they are now part of AT&T and have a huge harassment team willing to jack one around about canceling. I needed a replacement tuner box, but all they offered was a High-Definition box at $25 more a month. Said regular boxes no longer available. Told them to CX immediately. Within a week got a final bill in excess of $350 which included "early termination fee" of $275. After several acrimonious weeks I finally called their home office, explained why I didn't want HD, and got a response from an AT&T VP of customer relations who told me she had called NYC and told them to quit and end further actions. I got 2 further bills from NYC for "Service fees" for $125 each, called my lady and she apparently called NYC and set them straight.

Janet Pampuro
November 04, 2022

I didn’t want renew my Microsoft account which was set to expire about a month later and I notified them by phone. On that same date Microsoft used my credit card information and paid themselves $69.99 for the annual Microsoft fee. When I got my bank statement I found out that they had stolen this money. Luckily, my bank was able to have this illegal withdrawal reversed.

Sal
November 04, 2022

Oh pls do something in this area regarding Planet Fitness! They will not let you cancel online, over the phone, out of the country, or at a nearby location not at your “home” gym. They only accept a letter at home location. I haven’t been to that gym since Dec 2021 and still getting charged though system knows I haven’t been.

Bill Lewis
November 04, 2022

Direct TV is guilty of the horrible cancellation practices.

Sandra Ulrey-Cardiff
November 04, 2022

I have experience this with my cable company I live in Sonora California I Comcast or Xfinity either way its confusing i can call 1800 comcast or 1800 Xfinity I can access my acct. my monthly bill runs 245.00 a month recently my income changed drastically so I wanted to change my plan or cancel my cable co. bills a month in advance so I pay my current bill in advance, yet I get charged late fees and they are billing for past due amount how is this possible. Is this legal ?

Kindly
Sandra Cardiff

Tom Smith
November 21, 2022

I purchased Norton protection. They added so many upgrades that my computer finally shut down completely. While it was still barely functioning, I tried to unsubscribe. Their web site led me around in dead end circles. I finally had a Tech completely cleanse them from my computer. It works fine now. I had them on automatic payment from a credit card. I had that account closed and changed for other reasons. Waiting to see if the charge carries over to the new account.

Sarah Woody
November 04, 2022

Please add comments for merchant credit card processing and attempting to end service with them

John Kitching
November 04, 2022

Boost Mobile has very similar practices. I waited for a full hour on hold with two different agents and they insisted on calling me back before they could give me my account number.

Dawn
November 04, 2022

Verizon expires your password then uses dark patterns in an infinite loop so you can’t log in to view or pay your account. They use dark patterns to find the number to reach someone to get the information you need to pay your bill. When you try to file an issue with them about the difficulties, again, dead-end. I’ve had to file several complaints with the FCC just to get them to respond!

Krista
November 07, 2022

In reply to by Dawn

Me as well! There’s a geofence over my home thanks to them and I can’t seem to get them to remove it. I have contacted the FCC and the FTC. It’s pitiful!

Doug
November 04, 2022

Verizon was very hard to cancel. It took me hours, but as a retired person I had time to spare. I kept my cool and after two trips to a store location with no luck and about 5 hours on hold and having people hang up on me on the cancel phone number. I took a round-about path by calling the new account number and cancelling thru the person.