Hacker News Re-Imagined

“Click to subscribe, call to cancel” is illegal, FTC says

  • 3181 points
  • 3 days ago

  • @spzx
  • Created a post
  • • 858 comments

“Click to subscribe, call to cancel” is illegal, FTC says


@xg15 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

> Publishers tend to think of this as “retention.”

My understanding was that "retention" used to be simply a measure of how many unique users/customers kept using your product. With some implicit (maybe too optimistic) understanding that they stayed because they wanted to.

In classic "if your measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a measure" tradition, "retention" today seems to be about keeping as many recurring visitors as possible, no matter how and no matter the reason why they are staying.

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@travisporter 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I once had to reset my password for Comcast via web chat. "while I'm resetting this, can I interest you in a TV service? Only 60/mo no additional fees." Wasted 10 mins of his time getting TV service priced out (of course - set to box wasn't included!) and said no thanks. Of course as a student my time was essentially worthless

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@flerovium 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Does this apply to ISPs? If so, this headline is much bigger than it appears. In the US, it can often take a full day to cancel Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum...

There are horror stories that require follow up over multiple days.

If only laws could fight the administrative burden of insurance companies, healthcare providers, credit bureaus...

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@jurassic 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I vowed never to pay the NYT another dime after the hassle they gave me about unsubscribing from their crossword subscription a few years ago. It was such a pain, I told to actually cancel my news subscription too. Never looked back. These days I mostly read the WSJ and it meets my needs.

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@josefresco 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I wonder if this will apply to Network Solutions, which requires you call to cancel services.

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@boringg 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Thank Effing God ... I don't care if your churn metrics go to isht please enforce this decision.

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@4monthsaway 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Finally. Now let's see how often it goes unenforced, just like affiliate link disclosure.

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@yosito 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

What would the consequences be of subscribing to something with a disposable card, then deactivating that card instead of formally unsubscribing? Can companies send your information to a debt collector or somehow force you to pay since you didn't cancel? Can it affect your credit score?

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@xmorse 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

The best thing the FTC did in the last 2 years

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@izzydata 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I should have waited to cancel my Spectrum so I could sue them for the ridiculous phone call I had to have.

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@mrfusion 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This would be amazing for gyms! I’ve paid for six months now for my old gym because I’ve been too lazy to go there in person fill out a form or whatever is required.

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@kieloo 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Same thing with The Guardian. Subscribed online and was then told I can’t cancel via email and have to endure a pushy sales call if I want to cancel. Similar experience with The Economist except it was via live chat instead.

These experiences honestly make me want to never subscribe to a newspaper again.

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@dudul 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I see a lot of comments about hellish phone calls to cancel subscriptions.

Every time I have to make such unpleasant call (usually an ISP or phone carrier) I always start the conversation by telling the representative that I'm recording the call on my end. After that it's usually pretty smooth.

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@watchdogtimer 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This is one of the biggest benefits of using a virtual credit card from services like privacy.com or Capital One's Eno. Just create a card online specific to the service to pay for it, then cancel the card when you want to unsubscribe.

Capital One lets you create an unlimited number of cards at no charge.

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@torsday 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Looking at you Economist .

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@bilalq 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Which regulatory body can make "sign up for gym membership in person, send registered mail to cancel" illegal? Unethical subscription processes happen even outside of tech.

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@Mountain_Skies 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

AOL's revenue would have been much lower if this had been the policy back at their peak.

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@myfavoritedog 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I signed up for an introductory rate subscription to an online publication, then when the introductory rate was running out, I thoroughly intended to just let it continue at the higher rate.

By chance, I noticed that if I DID want to cancel, I needed to call. The wrongness of the tactic made my decision for me. I called them right away to cancel and let them know that I would have continued with my subscription, but I wouldn't pay for a publication that used unethical retention practices.

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@thayne 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This article is talking primarily about publishers. Does it also apply to other subscription services, like say, an ISP?

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@eckesicle 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Meanwhile in Scandinavia:

You are legally entitled to unsubscribe from any contract in any way that is most comfortable to you. [0]

For example, you can:

* send them a letter

* send them an email

* call them and tell anyone who picks up the phone

* write it on a napkin and hand it to an employee

All are equally legit and legally binding.

Companies obviously do not want to deal with the manual overhead, so services typically have an easily accessible button for you to click.

Furthermore, companies are required to notify you at least 1 month before any contract is extended and offer you an easy way to cancel - and if they don't you can cancel at any point and get refunded. [1]

[0] for example in Finland: https://www.kkv.fi/sv/information-och-anvisningar/kop-forsal...

[1] for example in Sweden: https://www.riksdagen.se/sv/dokument-lagar/dokument/svensk-f...

EDIT: Just realised Finland isn't Scandinavian, but oh well :)

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@lostgame 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Related to HN: this is part of the reason I always disliked the allowing of paywalled links on HN.

I've had several journalism publications that have pulled this bullshit, and; frankly - at this point it seems to be part of their core profit plan. Probably always was.

It's about goddamn time this was a law.

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@chriskanan 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

It would be great to have this universally, especially with gyms, where one can click to join but must write a letter and mail it via the postal service to cancel.

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@yodsanklai 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I had the issue with the WSJ. I couldn't believe it was so hard to cancel. My solution was to update my card with an incorrect number, they canceled the subscription after the payment was declined.

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@kelp 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

California SB-313 (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtm...) was passed in 2018 and has this requirement:

"... a consumer who accepts an automatic renewal or continuous service offer online shall be allowed to terminate the automatic renewal or continuous service exclusively online, which may include a termination email formatted and provided by the business that a consumer can send to the business without additional information."

But I have one recent anecdote that suggests this language is not specific enough to lead to a very good outcome.

I had a SiriusXM subscription for my car, and paid $52.21 for the past 12 months of service. And they wanted to renew me for something in the ballpark of $20/month ($240/year). I absolutely hate that business practice and having to go talk to them to negotiate a better rate, otherwise they auto-renew you for a much worse rate than you were already on.

So I went to cancel. There is no click to cancel option. You have to call or do online chat. I think the online chat is how they can say they follow California law.

It still took me about 30+ minutes to actually cancel the service, because the person responding to the chat has to run through a script to try to retain you. First they want to know if you are enjoying the service. Then they want to know what stations you like. Then it's "I'll switch you to this new plan that's only $12/month, can I go ahead and do that?"

All the while I'm telling them that the reason I'm cancelling is that they tried to auto-renew me to a much higher rate, and now they are making it super hard to cancel, which makes me want to cancel more.

So I had to go round and round insisting I wanted to cancel. Never did they offer me anything close to the previous rate I was paying. Though I see now that if I re-enabled my subscription I'd get close to that rate again for 6 months. But for a service that I only use when I don't have good cell phone coverage, and the annual time waste they put me through to avoid over paying... It's not worth it.

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@Johnythree 1 day

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Am currently extremely pissed of with Expedia.

They have been sending me a long list of unwanted emails "Because I had dealings with the company". Which I most definitely have not.

And of course there is no way to "unsubscribe" unless I firstly log on. But the trick is that I don't actually have an account. So to unsubscribe from Expedia mailings, I firstly have to create an account.

Needless to say, I will never, ever, be doing any business with Expedia.

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@neya 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Fuck New York Times, I had to go through this chaos once and promised to never ever use any of their services ever again. I even went to the pain of making sure all my ad blockers were in full force when visiting the NYT. I developed a strong sense of hatred after realize what kind of slimy tactics they used to stop you from cancelling a subscription.

One day, I found a loophole. I would email them requesting a cancellation for my record and initiated a chargeback against them via my credit card company. I had no hopes of getting the money back, but then I also had evidence that I tried to reach out to them via calls and emails to make them cancel my subscription and the chargeback went through and I got a full refund. I really enjoyed that feeling knowing that the NYT lost more than they made from me as for every chargeback, the credit card company would penalize the merchant with a fixed fee - usually anywhere from $20 to $50 per chargeback if I'm not wrong.

I wish all those who had been scammed by NYT raises a chargeback and burn them to the ground. God, I never realized how passionately I could hate a company like this.

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@tvhahn 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

New York Times, I'm looking at you...

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@alixanderwang 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

"Email to cancel" isn't as insidious, but should also be illegal.

Superhuman does this. They responded promptly and cancelled my subscription, but nonetheless, that friction to not provide a synchronous button is always a deliberate choice, and often one that's telling of company values.

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@nobody9999 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Dark patterns aren't just for cancellations.

A couple years back, a friend bought me a one year gift subscription for Britbox[0].

When I tried to activate the gift subscription, the site refused to allow me to do so unless I provided them with a credit card number.

Which, from a practical standpoint, makes no sense as it was a gift.

I wasn't going to provide these wankers with my credit card number[0], so I then had to have an awkward conversation with my friend as I didn't want her to pay for something I couldn't use.

To their (very minor) credit, Britbox did refund the cost to my friend.

[0] AFAICT, much of the subscription industry relies on having your credit card details so they can continue to bill you. Especially with annual subscriptions, as most folks will forget about it until they see the charge on their credit card statement. Then the subscription service has another year for you to forget about it again. Rinse and repeat.

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@xg15 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

> including an option that’s “at least as easy” as the one to subscribe

Weirdly enough this sounds like a loophole.

I can already see some companies trying to bullshit their way through an investigation: "Oh sure, we don't provide online cancellation, because our way to cancel is even easier than online:" *presents a way to cancel that is in practice more difficult than online*.

I think either mandating that cancelling must be possible using the same workflow as subscription or more clearly defining what "easy" means would be important.

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@daariomj 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

The Economist Magazine makes it extremely hard to unsubscribe. I had to change my credit card.

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@aczerepinski 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I suspect for many sites you could change your address to California and then cancel online. Sites have had to support CA cancelations for years.

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@uncomputation 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This will be great for insurance and gym customers. Both make it as difficult as possible to cancel.

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@stretchwithme 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

My guess is making it easy to unsubscribe to everything will make it more likely that people will experimentally subscribe to things in general.

This is actually better for users and legitimate, useful services.

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@tickerticker 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

And a roar goes up from the crowd..... can't remember when I have felt such delight about a government announcement.

Trying to close accounts for my just-deceased brother took HOURS over several days. The retention person at Verizon even said there could be many reasons not to cancel a dead person's account.

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@Yizahi 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This exactly is why every year I think about subscribing to some expensive (for me) journal, then google horror stories about unsubscribing and abandon this idea.

Some people above mentioned inconvenient work hours when calling to unsub, but it's not only that. International subscribers must also pay to simply call another country. If will be put on hold for tens of minutes or more, then the price of that call will easily be more than annual sub price.

I suspect that even if FTC will change something in US, international subscribers will still be left out, because this is what usually happens in such cases.

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@literallyaduck 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Now, do must click to renew. How many elderly are still paying for magic jack, AOL, or other vampiric services.

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@daertommy 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Is this the most upvoted post on HN?

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@mcbutterbunz 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I don't see why there isn't a rule that requires a method of unsubscription using the same method by which you subscribed (but not only by the same method).

If you can subscribe by their website, you should be able to unsubscribe by their website. Same for phone, in-app, or in person.

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@msravi 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Meanwhile in India, The Reserve Bank rolled out a new policy (from Oct-1 this year) for recurring transactions on credit cards that requires the cardholder to provide an "e-mandate" for subscriptions with an additional factor of authentication (AFA). The e-mandate can be withdrawn at any time by the cardholder, giving them control of their subscriptions.

https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=1166...

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@ssharp 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

As soon as the cancellation process is any more friction than a few online button clicks or a quick online chat, my move is to just contest their last charge on my AMEX and tell AMEX to permanently ban "merchant xyz" from ever charging me again.

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@rogual 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I just expect these tactics from periodicals these days. Last time I signed up to one (The Economist) I used a pre-paid debit card for this very reason.

Sure enough, they eventually gave me a reason to cancel (popup modals over their online articles for paying customers) and I just emptied the card and sent an email to their customer service saying "I hereby cancel my subscription; you are no longer authorized to charge my card".

Can't refuse to cancel me if I have no money taps temple

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@cheggisguilty 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Chegg Study for university students does not link to a cancel subscription on their website, you have to search google "how to remove sub from chegg" and then you can find a "Cancel Sub" help article on the Chegg website. You can not get directly to the cancel article from their base website. They should be fined for the dark pattern.

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@GuB-42 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Several times, I've seen that the easiest way to cancel was to block the payment. Your subscription won't last long if you don't pay.

I guess that in theory, they could sue, but not only it is a small sum, they also probaby don't want to expose their dark patterns to a court of law.

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@elwell 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Consequently, our children's children will never appreciate this humor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5DeDLI8_IM

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@idworks1 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Anecdata (only because I don't have access to the data anymore). Customer satisfaction is so much higher when they get a one click unsubscribe. In fact, when the friction is so low, the customer is likely to start the subscription back.

I say this as someone who worked in customer service automation. The worst customer satisfaction score with lowest rate of re-subscription is from companies that make it hell to unsubscribe.

I've seen customers send messages like "Cancel and refund immediately!" Since our response was ai driven, we cancel and refund no questions asked in less then a minute (we do fraud check in the background). Many times you get a response back from the customer apologizing for their tone and praising the product. Some of them restart the subscription a cycle or two later.

When you make it hard to cancel, you lose customers on the long term. Make it easy, in fact make it friendly. Unless you are selling a shady product, there is no reason to believe customers won't come back.

Edit: typo

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@bojan 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

A lot of charities in the Netherlands do the same thing, where you can't just give a one-time donation, but have to subscribe to a monthly contribution.

That is horrible enough as it is.

But then to unsubscribe, you have to call them (during their and your office hours) and endure another couple of pitches to keep you subscribed until you are finally allowed to cancel.

And then some of them even have a cancellation term of one month.

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@danielvaughn 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This kind of practice isn't only in the comms industry. I had a gym membership back when I lived in NYC. Called them up one day, got a membership within just a few minutes over the phone.

A few years later when I moved, I called to tell them I'd have to cancel. I had forgotten to cancel before I moved, so I was already in another state (Florida). They told me I had to come into the gym physically to cancel, even when I told them I had already moved.

I called several times, asking everyone including the manager to just let me cancel over the phone. I remember saying "ok so you're telling me I have to literally fly to NYC just to cancel my membership with you?" And they said "I'm sorry sir, that's our policy." After a week or so, I threatened them with a lawsuit, and then they complied.

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@usrusr 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This is why consumers are so eager to use obscenely expensive (in terms of what the recipient actually gets) payment methods like Google/Apple in-app subscriptions.

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@timwis 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Thank goodness! When trying to cancel NY Times, I had to cancel it in PayPal because I couldn't get through to NYT!

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@GuardianCaveman 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I would just add that services like privacy.com that allow you to create burner cards or cards with specific limits has really helped me with things like gym membership or other places that may make it hard to cancel.

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@DarthNebo 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Stripe can be a good enforcer of this. A lot of banking accounts opened online refuse to close the same way too.

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@whoknowswhat11 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I think the hypocrisy of allowing call to cancel and not doing anything about to stop it WHILE suing apple (which DOES make click to cancel a reality for subscriptions) was probably a bit too glaring.

The reason people go for the walled gardens is because the govt, which would be the natural control point, has dropped the ball totally in terms of online scams and crap.

And no, I'm not talking about going after google for the umpteenth time for some random thing - but the straight crap / lies / scams (impossible to cancel online subscriptions, bogus tech support installing back doors etc).

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@timwis 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I hope they do something like this for gym memberships!

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@swayvil 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Ran into this with Verizon.

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@wallzz 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

in France, it's click to subscribe, send a physical hand written letter with signature using a tracking number, and you have to do this the right time( usually 2 months before the anniversary), if you miss it, you have to wait another year.

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@mercy_dude 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Good. The worst experience I ever had was with NY Times when I wanted to unsubscribe I had to go through multiple call/chats with a person and it was almost impossible since it was hard to get in touch with one.

I am glad FTC is doing something others are afraid to do.

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@nobodyandproud 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

You ever tried canceling Amazon Prime?

Amazon words the cancellation prompt in a way that it SEEMS like you’re out the $139.00 when it renewed.

And injects many options to keep you, while you think you’re canceling.

But no, it’s prorated (because it’d be illegal otherwise) and it’s all the way at the bottom many pages down.

There are many, many dark patterns

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@PaulHoule 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Yes!

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@dwighttk 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Is nytimes going to go out of business?

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@999900000999 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I think Match got sued for this, they go out of their way to stop you from canceling since as a business practice they'll show you bot messages before you sign up. Once you give them 40$ or whatever then you'll immediately see all your matches are fake.

This alone is already a problem, but then canceling is deliberately made difficult.

The problem is they've ( via their child brands like Tinder as well) made billions doing this. If you can run a business, make 10 billion dollars and then pay a 10 million dollar fine, you'll just pay the fines.

I don't have a good solution to this. I personally refuse to give my money to or work for companies in this space.

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@xtat 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Every once and a while the FTC does some hero shit

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@nojs 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Not a newspaper subscriber but can’t you just cut these payments off at the source by calling the bank and telling them it’s fraudulent and unauthorised? PayPal, Apple etc make this pretty easy for most subscriptions.

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@totorovirus 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Reminds me of my wsj cancellation. I procrastinated twice calling via hotline and they ripped off three months of subscription from me.

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@aigo 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

The Times of London does this, and so does The Telegraph.

Most of my subscriptions go via PayPal or Google so I can just cancel the payment and eventually my service will be cancelled for lack of payment.

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@metatranca 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I live in Florida and recently subscribed to LA Fitness and after a couple days I "discovered" that it is very difficult to cancel with them: you have to send a letter.

https://www.wikihow.com/Cancel-an-LA-Fitness-Membership

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@tombert 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I remember about 15 years ago, I signed up for Real Rhapsody's unlimited music service. I tried it for about two months, didn't like it, and found that canceling required me call them on a weekday during business hours (ending at 4pm eastern). I was still in high school at the time, and this is pre-smartphone so it would have been hard for me to do this during lunch, so it was pretty hard for me to cancel. Eventually I had to ask my mom to impersonate me, call them, and cancel it, but it was an idiotic thing. How uncomfortable are you that users will like your service if you have to trick them into staying subscribed?

Granted, it was the Real corporation, I really should have seen crap like that coming.

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@lagadu 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

In Portugal the law makes it so you can cancel any service using the same means that you used to subscribe it, so if they support subscribing online, unsubscribing also has to be doable the same way; same goes for via phone, personal or whatnot. It makes sense, prevents service providers from making it too difficult to terminate a contract.

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@swyx 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Same with American Express. I couldn't believe that such a well known brand whose entire value proposition is great customer service has a "call to cancel" process. I hope it dies.

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@strenholme 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Since I live in California, which has a “click to subscribe means you must have click to cancel” regulation, this isn’t an issue for me. After the New York Times published their inaccurate hit piece attacking Scott Alexander and Slate Star Codex/Astral Codex Ten, I was able to cancel online just clicking my way through.

I now subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, which looks to be the most neutral newspaper right now. Being a California resident, I have a special “California only” cancel button on my user control panel.

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@b20000 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

finally

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@m3kw9 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Good middle finger -> WSJ

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@nixpulvis 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

AT&T is offensively in trouble here. Not only can't you cancel easily on the web, you can't even go into their stores to cancel either. Finally, after 45+ minutes on the phone, they have a habit of hanging up on you. It's now happened to me twice within a month of each other.

The FTC better have some real teeth here.

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@dec0dedab0de 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I might cancel my gym membership, and re-join online just to make sure I can use this if I need to.

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@virologist 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

“Click to subscribe, mail to cancel”. would be more efficient.

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@ChrisMarshallNY 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Around here (Long Island, NY), Cablevision was notorious for the "crazy, desperate ex" approach.

In order to cancel the service, you had to call them, and they would connect you to a "retention specialist."

They would beg, wheedle, lie, manipulate, even threaten.

I remember when I changed from them to Verizon, I had to hang up on the guy.

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@Axien 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I use Privacy.com and generate virtual credit card numbers. I cancel the credit card at the time of canceling the service (or at least trying to cancel the service).

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@why-el 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I give them a card I grab from privacy.com that has a set amount, when I want to cancel, I set the card's amount to zero. They fail to charge it after a few attempts. The end.

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@dqpb 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Next, I'd like a law that requires every service that serves ad's to also have a paid no-ad option.

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@nickforall 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I wouldn't get your hopes up too much. It has been illegal in Europe/the Netherlands for years, however it is not enforced at all. Most newspapers don't let you cancel without calling them, having to deal with sales people trying to convince you to keep your subscription.

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@marcvizcaino 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙



@nunez 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This is amazing.

I wanted to delete a bunch of services I had passwords for in 1Password. A significant number of them couldn't be cancelled online. You couldn't even call. You had to email to ask for a cancellation. This, in effect, meant that they held your data hostage.

Of course, this means nothing if fees aren't associated with non-compliance.

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@jgsuw 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This is fantastic, I am still bitter from having to wait on the phone for 45 minutes to cancel my NYT subscription, only to have an argument with the poor call-center employee about how I was really resolved to cancel the subscription.

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@kristopolous 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I dealt with "fax to cancel" I think as recently as 2018.

The wackiness is almost expected

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@m3kw9 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

One click cancel link should be required to be given for every subscription.

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@pR1vaCy_1000 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I have a $1 iCloud subscription on an old iCloud account I no longer use. I could not cancel the subscription from a browser, so I called apple, and was told I have to do it from an apple device. The problem is I no longer have an apple device. Ultimately they escalated the problem, but I never received a call back.

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@smokey_the_bear 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I just went to cancel my daughter's literati subscription because the books aren't a good fit right now. I was going to keep my son's, but they made me do an online chat to cancel, so I canceled both.

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@rexreed 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Vonage is notorious for not only preventing people from canceling online but making it hell to cancel over the phone. They frustrate people trying to port numbers and charge ludicrous cancellation and other fees. Totally extortionate and predatory behavior. I hope all customers become aware of these practices.

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@aristophenes 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I had to cancel my gym membership because I was moving, and it required me to send a physical letter. I did this, but found out later that somehow I owed like 2 dollars, so they didn’t count my cancellation request because my account wasn’t up to date (should be illegal). They continued to bill me the entire membership fee, but my credit card had changed, so they sent my account to a collections agency. Right when I was trying to get a mortgage to buy a house. Cost me hundreds of dollars and much more in annoyance. Thanks The Edge for doing that to your previously loyal customer! It ought to be a law that once a customer informs you via email, text, phone or mail (and all must be easily found) subscription services can no longer accrue new charges.

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@makecheck 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

…and collectively billions of hours of wasted time are returned to consumers everywhere.

Generally though, we really need some efficient mechanism for saying “hell no” to new things that are clearly anti-consumer, instead of letting them be conceived, implemented, and insufferable for years before anything can be done.

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@newshorts 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Nothing is easier than mailing a letter. You don’t even need a router for it!

Simply click to subscribe and mail us a letter of intent to cancel when you want. Of course it will take us 60 days to process mail and if your handwriting isn’t great we might not be able to read your account number.

To access your account number, simply log in and click the lower right hand side of the page 5 times while holding the shift key down. If your account number doesn’t show up, call tech support.

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@subsubzero 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Great job on cracking down on illegal behavior from bad actors.

The next step I'd like to see is to focus on having deletion of accounts made very easy for all apps. Alot of web/social media companies make creating a account dead simple, but when you want to delete an account the tab is hidden by dark pattern design, or its made extremely complex and time consuming by sending multiple emails to different 'departments'. Account deletion should be legally as simple as account creation.

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@eyear 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Be decent, not rogue.

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@adamkochanowicz 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Privacy.com card. Set one-time use with limit equal to subscription price. I do this with shady subscriptions now and I decide when it’s time to cancel.

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@petilon 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

This isn't limited to newspapers! Have you tried canceling internet service? My internet service did not use internet for cancelation. I had to call.

Free ad for t-mobile: their 5G service for home internet is awesome.

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@dinvlad 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Can we also make it illegal to send unsolicited marketing mail (not email, which can be easily filtered/unsubscribed from) please? It’s a pain to have to “opt out” from those annoying paper-wasting weekly Xfinity mails, when I clearly don’t want to use their service and never signed up for their ads using my new address anyways (I wonder how they learned about it, huh).

But no, I have to find a special link to unsubscribe, and they say it takes them another couple months (!) to actually do it.

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@anandsuresh 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

About time this happened. I experienced this with the ACLU, of all the entities out there using this dark pattern. Enable subscriptions online to donate to the ACLU, but if you changed your mind, you have to get the phone to cancel. Needless to say, I just let my credit card expire.

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@puyoxyz 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

> The new guidelines around “negative option marketing” — which includes everything from automatic renewals to free trials that convert to paid subscriptions if consumers take no action — go beyond mandating that companies offer straightforward cancellation.

No, fuck this! If I get a free trial I want it to auto renew; if I have to take another step to make it renew that’s a waste of time, and inconvenient. If I don’t want it to renew I’ll cancel.

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@max-ibel 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I hate to be that contrarian guy, but I repeatedly put off calling spectrum to cancel our TV subscription (we never ever used it) because it involved talking to an actual salesperson who clearly used all sort of tricks to get me to upgrade to stuff I don't need.

Note: I can upgrade plans on spectrum just fine, but cancellation or downgrades means talking on the phone.

Based on my anecdata, this technique works just fine for companies - either they can charge longer for things that are not used, and/or they get a chance to personally talk to a customer to upsell them.

I'd very much like to believe these technique does work against companies, but I don't see it.

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@confidantlake 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Most people I talk to say they are against regulation. But without regulation you get stuff like this. I too am against having to get a permit for a kid to open a lemonade stand, but I am pro regulation to allow me to easily cancel subscriptions or my gym membership.

Also I wonder if the NYT will ever report on how hard they make it for their customers to unsubscribe?

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@enonevets 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I’ve had gym memberships where calling to cancel wasn’t good enough, you had to come in person to cancel.

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@Trias11 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Click to subscribe.

Chargeback to cancel.

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@glitcher 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

The article's framing is a little odd by putting the emphasis on news organizations. In my experience the worst offenders have been ISP's and phone providers. And it is such a widespread practice, it happens with everything from credit cards to gym memberships.

Another funny thing I'm wondering now, is if companies might find they are more profitable by eliminating these manipulative customer retention departments. Maybe try shifting the focus to making better products that customers want to stay with in the first place.

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@lookalike74 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Hedge fund dweebs: "We kill newspapers intentionally." Everyone here: "Fuggin NYT"

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@flanbiscuit 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

There was a skit on SNL recently that satirized this issue, wonder if the FTC was watching, ha!

It's about trying to cancel your cable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5DeDLI8_IM

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@xtiansimon 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Maybe OT, but Square (the online merchant processor) has a button for immediate deposit of funds.

Click it by mistake and find no verification step and immediate and irreversible fee for 1.5% of your queued transactions.

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@slt2021 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I keep a separate capitalone cc for all "subscriptions" and always keep it disabled, so that no charges will ever go through.

just enable it back for 10 seconds when signing up for service and disable it back.

so far it kept me safe from annoying services asking for cc and their unexpected charges

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@treebot 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Gym memberships are notorious with this. I always wondered how it was even legal. I cancelled my debit card and they sent me to collections.

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@harha 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Germany: you can cancel by mail (which we may not receive) or fax.

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@golemotron 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

> To comply with the law, businesses must ensure sign-ups are clear, consensual, and easy to cancel. Specifically, businesses should provide cancellation mechanisms that are at least as easy to use as the method the customer used to buy the product or service in the first place.

That's a tall order with one-click.

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@MisterBastahrd 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Seems like a lot of box subscription companies are gonna need to do some work this holiday season. There are a lot of companies out there who are also posing as US entities when they're really based overseas and have small LLCs as US affiliates who sell whitelisted products who will be affected too.

Recently I purchased a yearly subscription for an app from a foreign "health" company and after the checkout process, I was presented with some supplement options. These options were showing a discount on a per-month basis, but were also deceptively packaged in such a way that (a) the price was actually per month, and (b) if you chose ANY of the items on the screen, you were immediately billed for them without checkout.

Realizing that they just hit me for $270 for half a year's supply of supplements, I immediately sent an email to their customer service that I wanted my money refunded because I did not intend to pay a quarter grand on what were essentially fiber pills. These are shipped from a California warehouse. It was past midnight CST.

Twenty minutes later, I receive an email telling me that they are sorry but my order has been processed and there's nothing they can do, but if I wanted, they could send RMA instructions on the package. Their terms of service dictates that they have a "no-refund" policy and will only accept returns if there is physical damage to the shipped product. I asked again, and was rebutted again with the same sort of nonsense. Nobody was processing an order for a small goods company in California after midnight.

Welp... my next email to them informed the customer service rep that it was past midnight in California so no shipping had occurred. That I worked for a company with local and national news reach and I would be glad to share the information of my story, the app, the company name, and the parent company name with reporters who would be interested in covering deceptive business practices.

10 minutes later, I received an email apologizing for their transgression and another confirming that the charges were reversed.

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@twothamendment 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I've only had one good experience with call to cancel. Ok, one company and many good calls. Drumroll please, for AOL. Every time I'd try to cancel they'd give me another two or three months for free. Then I'd pay them for a month and call again.

I was a teen and paying for this new fangled internet myself because my parents didn't get it yet. Paying 4 months out of the year was affordable!

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@indus 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Last week I analyzed thousands of SaaS vendors that are using dark patterns in their billing loop [O].

Found out that many of the practices are borderline illegal..more so now.

Notables:

1. No notification when free trial converts to paid

2. Silent recurring renewals

3. Shady card authorization to bypass rule engines

4. Upsize during billing updates!

5. Charges during training and onboarding

[O] https://quolum.com/blog/saas/i-analyzed-saas-billing-dark-pa...

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@taxyz23 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I totally agree that call to cancel is a PITA and companies should be called on the carpet for it. The prime example of this is when I tried to cancel my Consumer Reports subscription a few years ago and it required me to Snail Mail a cancellation. What hypocrisy. But government intervention and more red tape is not the answer. Public shaming and taking your business elsewhere works better and maintains freedom. Otherwise we are only inviting in the long, inflexible, and political arm of the bureaucracy (and even worse in this case federal bureaucracy) to get involved in every facet of how a business structures its interactions with its customers. It encourages wasteful litigation, clutters our life with mountains made from molehills, incentivizes running to the government for the answer to every annoyance, and makes starting and running a small business the equivalent of running a minefield not knowing which local, state, or federal law or regulation it may violate with any particular action.

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@LadyCailin 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I found a loophole for NYT and The Economist. Convert your payment to PayPal (they allow you to edit payments, but not remove them), and then go into PayPal to cancel the active payment agreement. Easier than cancelling the card, or calling them.

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@jwilber 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Can finally cancel my nytimes subscription- literally the hardest thing to cancel.

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@simion314 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I want to see the anti-regulation individuals explaining how this is bad and is affecting the poor small guy, and they need to do more work to implement this (the usual bullshit when a regulation they don't like like GDPR is discussed).

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@goodluckchuck 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

You don’t have to wait for them to agree that your subscription is cancelled. When I call I tell them I’m cancelling and they’re no longer authorized to charge my card. If they don’t stop the charges, then it’s much easier to talk to my own credit card company and do a charge-back.

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@zorked 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Also a common practice in Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland...), but frequently even worse: click to subscribe, send a fucking letter to cancel it. Le Monde and Der Spiegel both do it.

I'm a news junkie, I think paying for news is important, but I don't have even 1/4 of the subscriptions I would have if it wasn't for scummy tactics and/or the fear that I will be subject to them in the future.

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@theckel 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

NYT - do you see this?

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@evancoop 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

There's something odd about legislation of this ilk. Virtually every comment here bemoans these nefarious activities, and the commenters themselves try to avoid companies that utilize these dark patterns. The market, therefore, seems to be working - the companies that pull this type of nefarious BS find their way into the dumpster of failed ventures (as they should!). Would a law, in effect, force companies to mask their unsavory dispositions? Customer LTV is actually higher when they are given the opportunity to control their subscriptions...

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@sempron64 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I subscribed to Verizon Fios service entirely online but when moving I found out there was no way to cancel except to call their support and bounce through several numbers. Quite annoying. However, because when signing up you do need to have a technician come to your residence, so there is some non-online interaction, it might not be against the rules.

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@Havoc 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Just had to sit on a phone call forever to get rid of uk beer52 sub.

It’s evil AF. Real life dark pattern

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@synergy20 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

What about IRS's pay me when you profit over stock, deduct 3000 per year if you lose money until you're dead? not symmetric to me, not at all.

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@postalrat 2 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Why can't I cancel any subscription through an interface at my credit card's website?

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@vaidhy 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Great job FTC/Lima. We need it and you delivered.

On a separate note. Why is it really hard for HN community to make a compliment? Yes, some companies will try to skirt around. But most of us seem to agree this is a step in the right direction and being hopeful is nice.

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@jihadjihad 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I went through the effort of canceling my NYT subscription this morning, and thankfully they have an option to cancel "using your account," which avoids a pointless phone call or virtual chat. It's the third option listed, of course, and there are a couple of guilt-trippy pages you have to slide past, but in all it took me 2 minutes to do.

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@SubiculumCode 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

How about "click to subscribe, click 6 diminutive, threateningly labeled buttons to cancel".

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@alexfromapex 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

What about snail mail to cancel?

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@alex_h 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

How would one go about trying to get this law enforced on a company? I live in California where this tactic has supposedly been illegal for 3 years already, but when I go to cancel my AT&T internet subscription, I still can not do it online and am forced to call.

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@IAmGraydon 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Someone needs to inform TMobile’s Home Internet division of this.

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@dboreham 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Ah, I fondly recall when the CTO of AOL tried to cancel his AOL account...

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@EmilioMartinez 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

A hard-to-cancel suscription is basically automatic theft, and should be treated as such

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@john37386 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I subscribed to a weekly meal kit. It was very easy to onboard and I liked the service for many months. My situation changed and I no longer needed their service. I wanted to cancel my subscription and it's impossible to do online. It's written in super small to call their happy representative. I didn't like this situation so what I'm doing is skipping the meal kit for the next 4 weeks. Every month I log on their website and skip the next 4 weeks... I'll do this until my credit card expired. Just for this, I won't recommend them to anyone. It's sad because I kind of liked it when it was useful to me.

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@tristanperry 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Good. The more exposure this tactic gets, the better.

I remember trying to cancel my The Times (of London) subscription a few years ago. It was a terrible experience - having to ensure a pushy sales call for 20 minutes, where the call handler kept ignoring my requests to cancel as they kept reading a hard sell script.

The sooner this practice ends, the better.

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@mdp2021 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Should not you only use anonymous / pre-paid / virtual / revocable credit cards for those operations?

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@_Donny 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Living in Europe, I couldn't believe that if I wanted to unsubscribe to New York Times, I would need to call one of their hotlines which operated in US time-zones. IIRC the open hours were after midnight in my timezone, and their local hotline was out of order.

I seriously thought that I had signed up for a phishing site ...

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@adrianmsmith 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

If they do something like this, it shows such complete lack of confidence in their product. "The only reason why people would continue to use this product is... if we make it sufficiently difficult to cancel".

When signing up for a product, if it uses tactics like this, I assume the product is no good, and even the producers of the product know it...

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@edgyquant 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Planet Fitness does this. You can sign up in a couple of minutes online but they require you to go into the store and request cancellation.

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@dqpb 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Finally! FU NYT

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@Zanfa 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

A reasonable legal requirement should be that customers are able to unsubscribe using the same method used to subscribe and the process should not require more time and effort than the initial subscription.

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@skyde 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I faced this problem with the airport Gogo wifi

they charge monthly fee but you need to call and spend hours on the phone to cancel.

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@annoyingnoob 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Looking at you Consumer Reports and LA Times!

Any company that forces me to call to cancel, and then works really really hard to retain me, and then starts offering me better and better deals loses my business for life.

If you can't offer me your best rate before I leave then you are just trying to get over on me and I'm offended. Have fun losing customers and going out of business.

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@yessirwhatever 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Someone tell NYT.

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@wly_cdgr 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Beautiful. Take that, NYT website, lol

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@mikevm 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I’m also annoyed by having to return or mail back routers when disconnecting from ISPs. When you sign up they are glad to deliver and install at no cost, but now you have to waste time or money sending them the equipment back.

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@cblconfederate 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Ironically, this may make people more likely to subscribe

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@romwell 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Well, making something illegal doesn't make it non-existent.

Let's see how this is enforced before putting those "Mission Accomplished" banners up.

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@forgingahead 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Great - please inform the NYT immediately so they can stop this incredibly sleazy practice for their own business.

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@viro 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Honestly avoiding stuff like this is why I loved how the App Store did subscriptions.

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@ajuc 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

Another dark pattern - "share my data with these" list, on by default, 4000 entries, and you have to uncheck them manually one-by-one or accept.

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@lutorm 3 days

Replying to @spzx 🎙

I got this spiel from someone, don't remember who now. When they told me I needed to call to cancel, I responded "If you can process my subscription online, you can process my cancellation too. If you continue charging my credit card, I will charge back the transaction." Then it was suddenly possible to cancel online just fine.

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