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Here’s How The FTC Wants To Help You Cancel Unwanted Subscriptions


Streaming services savings deals

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it should be as easy to cancel a subscription as it is to create one and has today announced new proposals to help make the change happen. While subscriptions don’t just apply to streaming services, anyone that has signed up and pays monthly or yearly for one is probably well aware of how much harder it often is to cancel them.

Almost all streaming services make it a little more difficult to cancel a subscription, often requiring the user to dig deep into the settings to find the option. This is compared to the often shiny and easy to see Sign Up and Start Free Trial buttons. However, some services make the whole process much harder than others.

The answer, according to The Federal Trade Commission, might be a new “click to cancel” provision. As the FTC explains, a click to cancel provision would require “sellers to make it as easy for consumers to cancel their enrollment as it was to sign up.”

Using streaming services as an example, the proposal suggests that it should be equally as easy to cancel as subscribe. In other words, the option to cancel must be available on the same website, and as importantly, only requiring as many steps.

Again, streaming services are only one type of subscription that a consumer can sign up for and the FTC seemingly wants the new proposal to apply to all types including newspaper and gym memberships as well. In addition, click to cancel is only one of the measures that the FTC proposed and suggested would “go a long way to rescuing consumers from seemingly never-ending struggles to cancel unwanted subscription payment plans.”

According to the FTC, the agency “receives thousands of consumer complaints about such practices” each year and this is partly the reason why it has now suggested the new proposals. Some of the ways in which services are accused of making the option to cancel “either difficult or impossible” include requiring customers to cancel in person or keeping them on hold waiting to talk to customer service.

Neither of these options typically apply to most streaming services although there are some which do ride a little close. For example, our own experience with DirecTV Stream found that subscribers often have to chat with someone to cancel their subscription. Under the new proposals that would not be possible considering subscribers don’t have to talk to someone when signing up.

Another of the proposals is to introduce “new requirements before making additional offers.” Those who routinely cancel streaming services might be a little more familiar with this one as it is not uncommon for a streaming service to offer a deal or promotion while you are trying to cancel.

While the new rules would not prohibit services from doing this, they would require the streamer to ask and receive consent to show the deals before actually offering a deal.

Again, these proposals are more aimed at subscriptions and recurring payments in general rather than streaming services, and to be honest, streaming services are not the worst when it comes to making it difficult to cancel.

Still, most do make it somewhat harder to cancel than to sign up so the proposals would mark a change for streaming service subscribers, if implemented.

John Finn


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