FTC Wants to Make Ending Subscriptions a Lot Easier

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The government is fully embracing cancel culture.

For subscriptions, that is. On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a new “click to cancel” rule that would make it easier to break up with those clingy subscriptions in your life. Good riddance.

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We all know the feeling: You sign up for a free trial and then 12 weeks later a fresh shipment of razor blades arrives on your doorstep accompanied by a $20 dent on your credit card bill and the annoying thought Oh did I forget to cancel that? Then you log on to your computer, reset a password you long forgot, and navigate a labyrinth of nested menus and please-oh-please-won’t-you-stay promotions before wriggling out of monthly collections. Or, even worse, you have to get on the phone with an actual breathing human being. Then, finally relaxed, you fire up your Roku and realize you’ve been paying for Discovery+ for seven months because of that one time when you wanted — nay, needed — to watch Planet Earth II.

Signing up is as easy as punching in your credit card digits and clicking one button. Canceling, not so much. Finally, the government wants to help forgetful subscribers everywhere:

  • The proposed rule would require companies to make canceling subscriptions just as easy as it is to sign up for one — crucially, ending phone calls for services customers signed up for online.
  • Failure to comply would result in a $50,000 fine per violation. That means a service with one million subscribers risks a $50,000,000,000 fine.

“The idea here is pretty simple,” FTC chair Lina Khan told reporters. “Companies shouldn’t be able to manipulate consumers into paying for subscriptions they don’t want.” That’s a philosophy we can subscribe to.

Recurring Headaches: The federal agency voted to approve the notice of the proposed rule 3-1, though the ‘if’ and ‘when’ it becomes law remains an open question. In the meantime, you can keep putting off that awkward in-person chat with the muscled rep about why you no longer want to pay $50 a month to not trot on a treadmill at the gym you never go to.