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 Regulations.gov 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: ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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.
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I'm so glad to see something finally being done about this! I've personally had to deal with this many times over the years, particularly from the software company Iobit (System Mechanic) who has signed me up for subscriptions I didn't want, then wanted to charge me for them. Plus cancelling existing subscriptions to make me call them, then put on incredible sales pressure to get reinstated what I was already paying for!
SIRIUS XM RADIO is at the top of my "bad business model" list for auto renewal.
Auto renewal with a huge price hike always.
And after i cancelled and told them to take a hike, they call me non stop from spoofed numbers, and also email and snail mail me.
I cancelled, in the middle of the yearly membership (which was autopay) my membership with this company. Then, on my anniversary of this membership, I was charged the annual fee!
I absolutely feel there should be more regulation in this regard as well as in removal of personal information from companies that have it. It can be very difficult to get off mailing lists and their explanations of terms can be very confusing. You may not get confirmation that your account closure request has been acted on, it may take 90 days and if you get confirmation of closure it can state they need to keep some personal info but don’t tell you what they are keeping.
In reply to I absolutely feel there… by Diane Ramus
Absolutely, there should be more regulations on companies or individuals keeping your personnel information on file. They should have to purge your files of any and all personnel information with in one (1) month or sooner of closing your account, and no company or individual should be allowed to SELL your personnel information.
In reply to Absolutely, there should be… by James Mabury
Yes I've had to even call monthly to retrieve the $ everyone has charged me such as Walmart taking my online orders then no receipt and charging me $98 for a membership I never wanted or asked for. Still no refund it's been 7 months.
Why is this just a proposal? This should be put in place to stop the fraud immediately! Procrastination does not help consumers! It is quite evident that these violations are occurring so put the plan into action! Thanks
In reply to Why is this just a proposal?… by Amos S. Jones
My thoughts exactly this should have been implemented since yesterday.
I was once told by a bank or credit card company, I don't recall which, that I could not stop an auto payment, only the company receiving the auto payment can cancel it.
In reply to I was once told by a bank or… by Don Ruppel
This has happened to me too! Horrible experience! The charges kept coming until I canceled the whole credit card.
Streaming TV services and Satellite radio are some of the worst offenders in subscription trial scams. If you sign up for a year and change your mind they keep your money and you're stuck with a service you don't want for the rest of the year with no way to cancel and get a refund of the balance. They also require you to call some phone line where you are pressured to continue the service by some foreign operator who is hard to understand. If you can sign up online, you should be able to cancel online without the high pressure sales pitch.
I could write a book on this. What’s more, AT&T, Verizon, and all other competitors are now conspiring and have been for two years, vape and hook yet you don’t get exactly what you think you’re going to get and then try to cancel. That is the most “next to impossible“ Dilemma imaginable. I spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in time to undo what they did and I am one of the most cautious scam preventers on the planet. But don’t stop there… Getting my money back was near impossible. I have stories to tell books to write and the FTC will not hear me. Do you know how many complaints I have on the FTC table? begging Jeanne Shaheen’s office, Senator Shaheen, to do something and they can’t. That’s crossing their line? Give me a break? Well, figuratively speaking, we are broken and cannot be fixed because mini smart people have created the proverbial catch 22 for a reason. FTC, contact me!
Here's how I keep control over these types of situations.
1: Contact the credit card company to TELL them to no longer honor charge requests from that company. I've had to do this in the past and, (I don't know the time limit) try asking for a "charge back". If your card company does not honor your direction then cancel your account with that credit card company.
2: Under certain conditions, a company may require payment thru your bank. We maintain a second checking which is used for automatic payments. We maintain a certain "low balance" in this account. Since most banks can take up to 3 days before honoring a payment to a vendor, you should have enough time to contact the bank to decline that payment.
On a daily basis, you should go to both your credit card accounts and banks to confirm that all transactions are as they should be. We maintain a computer generated "sticky note" so we may make daily financial notations. When closing this app, it automatically saves your entries along with all previous entries. This is a dependable method because your computer only needs to be booted and does not require you to be on-line.
There needs to be some type of rule regarding free trials that automatically go to auto-renewal if you don't cancel. It would be nice if the company would send a reminder that in so many days your free trial is up and give you the option to choose whether to continue or cancel. Sometimes life gets busy, and you forget that you need to cancel.
In reply to There needs to be some type… by Bonnie Farley
Some renew 30 days before it is up. Looking at you, Norton Virus Protection!
Excellent article. I always appreciate the very fine work of the Federal Trade Commission. The proposed rule is a great idea.
Thank you! These new rules are needed. It seems some companies make canceling deliberately confusing, difficult, and/or annoying. I feel this way about my virus protection. It's a good program, but the confusing labyrinth I have to negotiate to turn off auto-renewal and the subsequent incessant nagging to "upgrade" are very irritating. I believe it's designed to be annoying, so that I'll just give up and agree to pay three times more for the program than I pay when I simply buy the product from Amazon each year. Thanks for what you do to protect us consumers!
I have been trying to cancel Experian for weeks unsuccessfully. This would be a great one to put the hammer too.
Make sure to include that cancelling has to be *as easy to find* as it is to find the sign up option. Prevent circumventing the rules before it happens.
One of the serious offenders of the free offer is Amazon Prime. I accidentally found I had subscribed to Amazon Prime when making a purchase of basic household supplies. It took three months and a nasty email to get my Prime membership canceled. I realize now that it is very hard to avoid the accidental subscribe because the "not now" button is well hidden. I really would like to see the FTC take on this problem on Amazon
I’d love to see this proposal go into law if it could be enforced. I got caught a couple of times by companies that made it easy to sign up for a free trial online and gave an 800 number to cancel. But, when you called that 800 number, you got stuck in an endless loop, no human, and no way to cancel. Yes, I did file reports with my credit card company and the FTC. And between the two, I was able to cancel and get a refund. But, it shouldn’t be this hard.
This is a great change to the way it is now. Make it simpler and final without dragging the cancellation process to take more than a month.
This should have been done years ago.
Stopping should be just as easy as starting an auto-renewal.
one click to say "stop" and a second click to say "are you sure".
After two clicks, any further credit card charges are fraudulent.
I definitely think there should be more regulations about this issue to make it easier to cancel a trial that automatically renews. It is often very difficult to find where to cancel on a web site and sometimes they require you to call and that entails waiting to speak to somebody who then harasses you to continue.
I have been using CitiCards "Virtual Credit Cards" that assigns a unique card number for the transaction and allows you to limit the amount they can charge. After I pay or enroll for the initial trial, I then cancel the "Virtual Credit Card" so they will not be able to automatically renew. This has saved me a lot of hassles and unwanted charges.
Great proposal! I wish FTC can pass the proposal b/c as a consumer we are all trapped in this kind of Phishing the fool game by a company. They do everything they can to prevent you from unsubscription once you subscribed.
I enrolled into a subscription and I was not aware that because I signed for the year that I was going to charged if I cancelled before the full year was up. I stayed with the company for the full year but the company makes it very difficult to stop the auto renew when the subscription has met the yearly obligation. When signing for the product online there should be a means to also cancel online because the lengthy hold for telephone cancel seems deliberate and also the business has time limits to cancel. Allthough this is not a scam it is also not a good policy for consumers.
How about a modest penalty with the proceeds going to an apolitical charity? With the penalty increasing with the number of violations?
All for it. I know how hard it becomes to cancel & therefore get stuck paying for a service I no longer want. I'm all in favor to set regulations to protect buyers from continuing to pay for something they no longer want.
This proposal would be a great consumer protection to help prevent companies from taking advantage of consumers!!👍
This new rule is a great idea. It would greatly simplify solving the cancellation of service problem for the consumer. Please make it happen.
On the article I just read about making it easy to stop something as it was to sign up is just good sense and an honest approach for companies. I just quit a Telepone company and was billed for a full 3 months after quitting the service. I was paid back but only after 6 phone calls and a complaint to the better business association.
As a consumer who has faced this situation numerous times (gym membership, newspaper subscription (New York Times requires a phone call to cancel!), food delivery, ... I strongly support this effort. Thank you for looking out for us.
The FDIC needs to make this mandatory. One clicks on “Unsubscribe” and nothing happens. Apparently it only confirms a live e-mail address which they then sell to others.
I thick thats great for FTC to take this own.my beef is mobile phones,ref: APPS-I*v searched and cannot find a way to cancel or delete.Some I dont remember ever signing up...GOOD LUCK !
Should provide hyperlink to make comment. Try searching for it, but couldn’t find it.
And that is why Hello Fresh keeps coming back to me like a bad ex-boyfriend while I constantly say IT’S OVER Then I had to block payment from my bank instead….Hello Fresh would not let me breakup with their boxes of joy
I have learned that you can't believe the statement "Easy to cancel."
Thank you for this information. Is a keeper but hopefully will never need to report any charity or business that I've signed up with for auto monthly donations or subscriptions.
Thank you for making the font of this FTC website larger and darker against the light background so that people that have difficulty seeing can read with ease. The illustrations are very nice, too. Thanks for all this.
Just forced to pay the Modesto Bee $96.36 for 20 newspapers for my 97 yr old dad bc he failed to cancel the subscription he could no longer read!
There should be a default that all automatic subscriptions expire after a well-defined period, and the default for the customer is to opt in, not opt out. Also, there should never be a default to raise the category of subscription without making it very clear that would happen. That happened to me recently with my McAfee antivirus subscription which was an automatic opt in for continuing subscription, and where I was kicked up to a more expensive category with features I did not expect and do not use. It was not worth my time to go to battle with them. I did continue because I like their antivirus program and fear complexities of switching to a different company, but I do consider what they did to me unethical. This pattern seems to be more and more the rule in internet commerce. Bottom line: defaults should be in favor of the customer, not the business.
Set up a rule to all companies that the customers have to opp into continue getting their products after the trial period is over. If there is no response from the customers after the trial period, the companies can't charge the customers for future products.
Thank you for continuing to support we naive consumers. For many of us, as we age, we become more susceptible to intimidation after being suckered into seemingly benign commitments!
typing in Regulations.gov took me nowhere. Last time I did use a gov't link that I thought would take me to the specific reguiation being considered, I had to go through about 5 pages to find it. How about making it EASY TO COMMENT? Rather then making it unnecessarily time-consuming? The article doesn't even mention the number of the proposed regulation or in any way make it easy to find it. Does the FTC really want public comments?
Also if the regulation doesn't address the issue of automatic renewals for subscriptions--i.e, allowing no opportunity to say NO, I don't want automatic renewal WHEN the person initially signs up for the subscription then it's failing to provide an essential protection. I almost always only want a one year or initial subscription to a newspaper (online) etc., but in the last 3 years, only one online news media source allowed me to do that and I had to ask (by email) if that option was available before being told that it was. It wasn't on the subcription form for me to check off or choose.
I have been there a number of times. Attempting to curtail the options often is time-consuming.
Now this is good every day advice for all to know. The criminal underworld needs to be stopped and we thank you for doing everything you can.
I have signed up for several subscriptions over many years, some of which I have since cancelled. It was very easy to cancel a wine membership, a food delivery membership, and a razor delivery membership. The most difficult subscription to cancel was a Sirius XM Radio annual subscription. A customer service "chat" support kept trying to talk me into other plans but I finally was able to get them to understand I am not in the car that often and no longer need the service. I have avoided certain services with a subscription plan, especially if they are not well known. I am very aware of the difficulties in cancelling some.
Free trials, auto-renewals, and subscriptions should be opt-in. It's too easy to miss a checked box that enrolls one automatically.
It would be to a company's advantage to operate this way. Personally I never sign up for any auto-renewals or free trials because I
might not be able to cancel based upon past experience. More safeguards and transparency would likely change my attitude.