Subscription services make it easy to sign up and hard to quit. Even companies that boast about their ethics turn to dark patterns when it comes to retention: the New York Times, to name but one, has readers write or call to cancel after happily accepting their credit cards online. But the Times has nothing on your local gym and all the other con artists who got you to sign up without realizing what you were on the hook for. The FTC proposes to make it easier to unsubscribe.
"The idea here is pretty simple," Khan said. "Companies should not be able to manipulate consumers into paying for subscriptions that they don't want."
Broadly speaking, the rule change would prohibit companies from trying to retain customers through deceptive or burdensome tactics intended to stymie or delay them from quitting a subscription, such as by making customers mail in paperwork to cancel a subscription they initially signed up for online. For each violation of the rule, companies would be on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars a day in fines — not to mention the consumer refunds the FTC could seek under the rule. While the FTC can currently pursue those types of remedies in specific sectors where cancellation rules exist, such as telemarketing, there is no such rule covering the economy as a whole, Khan said.
I know it's CNN Business, but it's funny how the story is concerned about how "this could hit America's biggest retailers and online platforms", as if in any reasonable view of this world they are victims of anything at all.