Internet | November 19, 2021 12:46 pm

The FTC Just Made It Easier to Cancel Your Subscriptions

We shouldn't have to call a random number to stop paying for a service we no longer want (ahem, New York Times)

In this photo illustration the American newspaper The New York Times (NYT) logo seen displayed on a smartphone with USD (United States dollar) currency in the background. The FTC just made it harder for places offering subscriptions, like the New York Times, to prevent subscribers from cancelling easily.
Click to subscribe but call to cancel ... not cool, New York Times.
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on businesses that offer subscriptions but make it difficult or nearly impossible to cancel those services.

A new policy statement suggests companies will now face legal action if their “sign-up process fails to provide clear, up-front information, obtain consumers’ informed consent and make cancellation easy.” Incidents of these so-called “dark patterns” have apparently crept up recently; these bad practices include forcing customers to call to cancel a service after signing up online or charging paid subscriptions before free trials have ended.

The worst offenders? According to a survey by the American Press Institute and reported by NiemanLab, only 41% of U.S. news organizations “make it easy” for subscribers to cancel their subscriptions online.

Hopefully this will mark an end to impossible-to-cancel subscriptions, which, based off of replies to the FTC announcement on Twitter, definitely includes the New York Times but also many cable companies and gyms (including Planet Fitness). I’ll personally add SiriusXM here — I never test out their three-month free trials that I receive via email every week because it requires me to call to cancel.

If all goes well, if you sign up for something now online, you’ll be able to end that membership with the same little effort.