Online registrations of all kinds have mushroomed in recent years. While it’s easy to sign up, managing and cutting them can be difficult even for serious consumers.
Clark Howard, a longtime Atlanta cost-conscious guy, said he recently realized he’s paying for streaming even though his family gets the service free from his home Internet provider.
Send a group text – “Who signed up for this?” – and found out that one of his children. He said he was able to cancel his further registration online. But experience shows how complex it can be to pay directly to a credit card for countless services that consumers can access with just a few clicks.
“It could be a lot of different things,” Mr. Howard said. Video entertainment and online games, computer software, cooking utensils, weight loss applications, and clothing are just a few of the items available through subscription. People can lose track of everything they pay, he said.
But government watchdogs are monitoring how companies handle customers who try to unsubscribe. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission Amazon suedThe big online retailer claims it tricked people into signing up for its Prime program, which included perks like fast delivery and streaming, into canceling them.
“The primary purpose of the general cancellation process was not to enable subscribers to cancel, but to stop them,” the agency said. News release.
Amazon said in an emailed statement that the FTC’s claims are “false in fact and in law,” adding that “by design, we make it clear and simple for our customers to both sign up for and cancel their Prime membership.”
The FTC also proposes Rules It requires companies to make it “at least as easy” to cancel a subscription as to start. For example, if you can register online, you should be able to cancel on the same website for the same number of steps.
James A. Kohm said the new rules, which are being finalized, are expected to go into effect next spring or summer. “Help is on the way,” Mr. Kohm said.
Many people and groups have submitted comments about online. The proposed regulations. In Eugene, Ore., he wrote that he finally had to convince the credit union to stop making monthly withdrawals from his account to cancel TextNow, an app that offers messaging and calling services. And a subscriber to MyHeritage, a family genealogy site, said he “tried in vain” to get the company to stop automatically charging his credit card. TextNow and MyHeritage did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The problem is the use of “negative option” plans, which unless consumers positively accept the offer – a free trial that continues as a paid subscription.
Companies prefer to automatically renew subscriptions because they don’t have to continue to aggressively market their products, said John Breit, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumer League.
Some people, of course, like free trials and automatic renewals. Even the FTC acknowledged in its opinion that such options could have “significant benefits” for consumers. But increasingly, the FTC says, companies use “dark patterns” that make it harder to stop the service. Such tools may include making customers click through multiple screens or dimming the online “Cancel” button but using a bold color for “Continue.”
C+R research is available in May 2022 survey On average, consumers estimate they spend $86 per month on subscription services. But after taking a closer look at their expenses, they saw that they spent $219.
Mr. Howard urged consumers to research new services and their cancellation policies by going outside the service’s website to find the cancellation policy and any complaints before signing up.
“You should see how you get divorced before you get married,” he said.
The FTC recommends that consumers set a calendar reminder on their phone when they sign up for a free trial so they’ll be notified when it’s time to cancel. However, not everyone does this, so Mr. Breuil’s team is asking the FTC to require companies to notify customers before each recurring payment and remind them that they can cancel if they choose.
Are constant email or text reminders annoying? Maybe Mr. Breault said. But it’s even more annoying to be charged for subscriptions you no longer use.
FTC It’s offering an annual reminder for anything other than subscriptions other than shipping physical goods. (The idea is to get things delivered to your door is a good enough question.)
The FTC’s proposal gives consumers the option to hear alternative, money-saving lines before canceling service. (The FTC’s Mr. Kohm said he took advantage of such an offer himself. When he canceled a radio subscription, he was offered a price too low to continue.)
But the changes aim to avoid situations like the one described in a letter written by two dozen lawyers to the FTC, in which a customer tried to cancel a subscription using the company’s online chat feature. A company representative ignored the man’s request to cancel and kept him online for 40 minutes, repeatedly urging him to reconsider.
Here are some questions and answers about managing and canceling subscriptions.
How can I better track my subscriptions?
“He needs a mental reset,” Mr. Howard said. Once every three months — when the seasons change — he recommends looking at your checking and credit card statements and reviewing recurring payments, “seeing all the things we didn’t remember.”
If there is something you no longer use, delete it. He admits it’s not always easy, especially with some cable companies and many gym memberships. He said you may need to call the cable company where you can be transferred to a “retention” specialist who may be able to offer some temporary discount to keep you. With gyms, you may have to visit a location.
Do I need to use a subscription tracking app?
There are now many apps that check your bank account or credit card statements for recurring charges and can even offer to cancel subscriptions. But the apps require you to share your account information and may charge a fee in some cases.
In a letter to the FTC, the attorneys general took a dim view of such apps. “We believe that users should not have to sign up for another service to manage their subscriptions,” they wrote.
What else can I do to avoid unwanted subscription costs?
The FTC advises consumers to check boxes that are already checked when making online purchases. Those boxes may register you unless you uncheck the box for the product or service you don’t want. If you cancel your subscription but still pay, the Commission recommends that you dispute this with your credit card company. You can also submit complaints FTC website.