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Feeling + or - about negative options? Comments open soon at

You get your regular shipments of dog food, have your gym membership set to auto-renew each month, and have a free trial subscription to some genealogy site. Helpful, keeps you from having to remember to pay every month, lets you try new stuff for free. But what about when you want to cancel? How is that working for you?

That’s what the FTC is asking as it’s proposing to expand an existing rule to provide people with more protections when they want to cancel a negative option.  In non-legal, non-salesy terms, negative options are the set-it-and-forget-it of the purchasing world: you, Company, will keep sending me that dog food ‘til I say stop. But when Company decides that, no, they’re still gonna send you dog food, no matter what you say (or until you jump through a million hidden hoops), that’s a problem. The same goes for that free trial you tried to cancel but Other Company still kept charging you, month after month, for a service you tried and decided it wasn’t for you. These are some types of reports the FTC hears: especially the frustration with not being able to stop the thing you don’t want anymore. And, of course, stop paying for it.

In response, the FTC proposes to set requirements that it could enforce to stop more kinds of bad behavior. It also proposes to tell companies to clearly explain to people what they’re buying, make sure they know what they’re agreeing to, and make it as easy to cancel as it was to sign up.  

The rule is still a proposal, and the FTC will soon be taking comments from anybody interested. To comment, check out and, in the meantime, if you’re stuck in a trial, auto-renewal, or subscription that makes you feel, well, stuck, check out this advice from the FTC. And then report it:

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Nanci Cartwright
April 05, 2023

I try to set up any recurring payments, subscriptions, etc. through PayPal because I can go into PayPal and set it to NOT allow another payment automatically. For one subscription, I canceled, got confirmation, and yet a month later, it renewed. Fortunately I discovered that I had set it up via PayPal and so have changed that setting so that it shouldn’t happen again. Another thing that I will do, especially regarding subscriptions, is to mail a check for the special price. That way they can’t auto-renew but I still get the special price. I would love to see more regulation in this area where vendors wouldn’t be able to renew until contacting you and having you give permission at a link provided. Even to find the section in PayPal that has your recurring payments is difficult to find and is not intuitive. I finally wrote down where to find it so that I don’t have to click through everything before reaching it.

March 24, 2023

I bought coins from a reputable seller and attached to the sale was a statement that they would send coins for me to preview for 15 days. I tried to get them to stop sending them and they “granted” my request. A few days later, I received another free preview set and I was checking out how to return them and it was very costly for me to do. I decided that I would go ahead and purchase them and unsubscribe from the website. They’re still sending me emails and if they send me another set for preview, I’ll probably get loud about it. I have had enough. This is not the only time I have had issues like this. I’m glad you are looking into this practice.

Coral King
May 03, 2023

In reply to by Ybliku

Stamp collector companies pull this too. Especially to children. Just keep one preview set and tell them you didn't order it so donated to charity and you will never hear from them again.

Angimolly don’…
March 24, 2023

I’m stuck with this companies that I’ve been trying to get rid of but to avail. I believe that they are not out to scam people into signing up for their services and then making it impossible to get out. I personally don’t think that I should be writing about this on line but I’m very frustrated with the whole ordeal.

Peter Kindlmann
April 05, 2023

My preferred method for cancelling involves a virtual credit card #. I.e. in all these trial and negative option instances my method of payment is a virtual credit card #, which many credit cards make readily available, and which are unique to that merchant or organization. These virtual cared #s can be instantly deleted, and that's how I end financial involvements which are otherwise often very stressful to terminate. No more valid card # to charge, end of story.

March 24, 2023

As a general rule, once companies get their hooks on you, the cancellation/refund process can take anywhere from 5 business days to ... months. They even have "customer retention specialists" talk to you with fill-in-the-blank reasons why customer should NOT cancel/ask for a refund.

Deva Narayanasamy
March 28, 2023

If you have a Wells Fargo credit card, they will let you easily stop the recurring payments, and sure most other credit cards do as well. I recently had a Microsoft free trial for Visio and calling Capital one, let me refund all the monthly payments.

Diane Gornell
March 27, 2023

Yes, I think this would be an excellent regulation. I'm in the middle of trying to stop this kind of situation now.

Mary Blanchard
March 27, 2023

I hope this gets passed. A giant company like Disney can well afford to lose some customers, yet I’ve been stuck with them for 3 years even though my grandchildren don’t need to watch it at our home any more. It’d be nice to have the option to opt out.

March 28, 2023

This proposal is such a wonderful game changer. It would be one of the best examples of the government working for the people in a long time.

April 05, 2023

So many of these companies don't send any monthly email receipts. When I get an email receipt I feel much better and feel like the company is being transparent.

April 05, 2023

I have heard so many stories of people who have moved away and been unable to cancel a gym membership because of the requirement that you need to come in to cancel, they have to replace their card instead. Ridiculous.

Jennifer Brown
April 05, 2023

I echo the other comments supporting this change. It is long overdue.

Jack Wicks
April 13, 2023

I fully support the FTC rule to make it easier and more straightforward to cancel subscriptions, auto renewals, etc. This rule is long overdue.

John Skiba
May 07, 2023

Hello. I subscribed to a Newsletter named NY Alert. It's not what I expected and there is nothing to click on to cancel. I have looked every where on the page and News letter and found no way to cancel. Thank you.

Jim Swaidner
May 07, 2023

Simple, ban auto-renewals on "free" trials. These are nothing more than a trap.

May 08, 2023

That's a great opportunity for People to save a lot of money unnecessarily for something they don't really want.. If I can, I will happily "assist/cooperate" in the newer version of subscription and payment deduction cancellation, if the Product is Unwanted or not needed for the Purchaser/Customer. Let's get on it..***

May 08, 2023

Glad to know it’s not just me, but I have two trial offers I’m trying to cancel and can’t get through to either one of without having to come up with a user name and password .
I had a somewhat good week and I hesitate to get on my broom or start pooong things with a stick … but I guess I have to .

May 08, 2023

That was “poking “…
Not “ pooing”… 🤭

Who can I blame for not proofreading ?

S. Davila
May 08, 2023

I have tried in multiple occasions, by mail and phone to cancel Equifax but to no avail. It is truly of outmost importance to make an available easy way to cancel this products. The company has for years, never answered my
request for immediate cancellation. Now my credit card has expired so the cancellation has finally been completed.

Mark Bonine
May 09, 2023

Consumers are paying millions of dollars per year for unused software, and subscriptions they don't recall ordering, have trouble canceling and cam continue for years. This is what we need: require positive agreement before any subscription or trial expiration causes billing. They may provide verification bridging on their trials. After billing commences the seller must send confirmation via email or other method within 5 days. An absolute right to cancel for a full refund applies 10 days after affirmative assent. Subscriptions must be sold as subscriptions: all prepayments for non physical goods and subscriptions must provide exact pro-rated refunds with no penalty for early termination. Discounts on cable and other fees would have to list the actual value and penalties could not exceed the actual value of the discounts pro rated for time. Imaginary or comparable values could nor be used. When equipment requires to be returned that was included in the deal 10% of the prorated remaining actual value could charged. Actual value = their wholesale cost of the hardware, which I'd subject to reasonable refutation and includes the average wholesale cost for the entire company. The seller must provide ability to cancel I'm whatever manner the product or service is sold by the company, in addition must include in-person, telephone, email and Web unless the seller makes no web-based sales, the other media would be required unless the seller stipulates the have not and will not add a channel unless first establishing that channel to engage customers, take order etc is fully available for support, refund , customer service and cancelation. Chat may be added by must be added if sales support or sales use chat.
-Should a company not honor a valid request all goods/services sent become free and not chargeable,and not recoverable unless fraud is proven. Any goods or services delivered prior to cancelation must be paid by purchase. Should a person become incompetent as to contracts or die all obligations cease in any case and the seller must stipulate where confirmation of incompetence or death are to be received. Changes in service due to offering expirations or changes (as in cable or mobile plans) can be made only after customer authorizes by mail, email, or web form and may not be effective until 5 days after confirmation. Any changes to plans must be disclosed per subscriber with a clear indication of specific changes, all changes in acces, costs, or terms must be disclosed 30 days before change via mail or email. Customers may immediately approve changes, cancel or opt into a different plan immediately. The 10 day withdrawal policy would still apply. During the period of subscription the price cannot be increased nor the features, channels, etc be reduced, changed, made less or non-functional or modified unless that feature, channel, etc is no longer available for business or bankruptcy, or dissolution of agreement/partnership. In these cases, customers will be offered equivalent or better features, channels, etc with no increase in price for the duration of the contract based on a like cost (not price) basis. If the consumer does not desire any of the substitute features/channels, alternatives their bill will be reduced ,by the providers cost but no less than $1 per month, or prorated number of months at $1 per month. If billed without adjustment they will owe consumers credit at total cost or minimum $1 times 5 per month until remedied. No upsell will be permitted when service is downgraded unless total price us reduced from pre downgrade unless consumer specifically requests addition services/options without prompting.
Penalty fees for exceeding data limits may not exceed the actual wholesale cost of those limits without markup or punative fees. Sellers may move buyers into a higher priced package at their existing price for no more tha 30 days which the consumer can decline or accept at the then current rate Sould the customer decline upgrade they will revert to their chosen plan and pay the excess whole costs. No contract requiring binding arbitration may not be made without the specific affirmative consent by consumer, any such consent is declined if customer states so at time of contract and if no positive consent given any proposed arbitration clause will be void. No terms, price difference or product, service, or delivery of goods/services will be offered or allowed between arbitrate contracts and adjudicated contracts. A customer may be credited no less or more than 10% of the purchase, subscription price for the time of the subscription, purchase for non-tangible items or memberships but not for any purchase of, using of, any physical items including access to to venues, transportation or other purchased accessories access physically where arbitration agreements are prohibited, excepting union contracts.