It can be really challenging to cancel some subscriptions, thanks to companies who put customers on long holds or make them listen to sales pitches to try to change their minds. It’s become such a problem that subscriptions are one of the top complaints at the Federal Trade Commission. And now they’re doing something about it.
The FTC is proposing a new “click to cancel” rule that would require businesses to make canceling a subscription as easy as it was to sign up for them. So if you were able to buy a magazine subscription online, they say you should be able to cancel it the same way, in the same number of steps, instead of having to call and talk to a customer service rep.
"The idea here is pretty simple. Companies shouldn't be able to manipulate consumers into paying for subscriptions they don't want," FTC chair Lina Khan explained on a call with reporters to discuss the proposed rule. “This is unfortunately a semi-universal experience for consumers.”
If the rule goes into effect, it would come with big fines for companies who don’t follow it - $50-thousand per violation, which Khan points out “can quickly add up if you think about the number of consumers.”
The FTC would also be able to help customers get back money they spent on a subscription they didn’t want or couldn’t easily cancel.
It’s not a done deal yet, but Khan says the agency is confident it will move forward. “We are just doing our job, to protect consumers from unfair practices,” she says. “We think we are on firm legal ground.”