FTC Workshop Analyzing Negative Option Marketing #527292-00001

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FTC Workshop Analyzing Negative Option Marketing
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The FTC should analyze how hard it is to cancel these services, not make it easier for businesses to get people to sign up for them. This article shows how easy it is to start a service, and how unnecessarily hard it is to cancel it. http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,128206/printable.html Just Cancel the @#%$* Account! It's hard to find a Web service that doesn't offer a free trial. But just try canceling. We did, and the results weren't always pretty. Tom Spring Friday, December 22, 2006 03:00 PM PST It took me less than 5 minutes to sign up for a NetZero dial-up Internet account. But after canceling that account, I spent a week trying in vain to reverse a charge that the service levied after my cancellation request. I had to call NetZero a total of five times, holding for several minutes and then enduring long and fruitless conversations with company agents every time I called. According to the NetZero representatives that I spoke to, I needed to talk to a supervisor to arrange a credit, but none was ever available when I called. In the end, I gave up and let NetZero keep the money. To evaluate how difficult canceling an online service can be, I signed up for and then canceled 32 accounts, each at a different site. About a third of the services in my sample made the seemingly simple goal of canceling very hard to achieve (see the "Big Hassle" entries in "Want to Cancel That Service?"). Not all of my experiences were negative. Services such as a monthly New York Times TimesSelect online subscription and a monthly Consumer Reports Online account took only minutes to cancel and without lingering strings. But some others made me feel as though I'd joined the Sopranos' family business: Once I signed up, there was no quitting! How Much Hassle? I subscribed to the services beginning last July, and I canceled--or tried to cancel--them all between August and October. Afterward, I considered several factors in assessing how hard it was to cancel each service and to receive any promised trial-period refunds. For example, I downgraded companies that failed to provide a way to unsubscribe through their Web sites. I also dinged merchants when they continued to bill me after I had canceled, and if they made me feel like a Net gumshoe searching their Web site for clues on how to unsubscribe. And I penalized sites whose customer service personnel pressured me repeatedly to continue my subscriptions or even buy other services. Finally, I took into account how long the various companies kept me on hold, and whether they continued to send me e-mail after I had canceled. FTC Workshop Analyzing Negative Option Marketing...