New York AG Sues SiriusXM for its Annoying Cancellation Process

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday for “trapping consumers in subscriptions.”

Photo of SiriusXM app on iPhone
Photo via Connor Lin / The Daily Upside

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A great man of the ‘90s once said he wanted to quit both the gym and the bank. He accomplished neither. That’s how we feel about our countless media subscriptions.

New York Attorney General Letitia James wants to make it easier to quit. James sued SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday for “trapping consumers in subscriptions and maintaining deliberately long and burdensome cancellation processes.” It’s the latest case of governments calling out businesses that prey on consumers’ lack of time, know-how, and patience. 

Click to Subscribe, Call to Cancel

Film and television streaming services were partly designed to replace costly cable packages, but all you’ve done is swap in a streaming bundle with subscriptions to Max, Netflix, Hulu, and Paramount+. 

A Forbes survey earlier this year found that 86% of Americans pay for more than one streaming service, spending roughly $40 each month. But nearly half of those paying customers admit to barely using the services, if at all. Plus, plenty of consumers have additional software, news, and fitness subscriptions billed monthly even if they, too, go mostly unused. 

Many of us have been there: It’s simple to sign up for a subscription, but discontinuing one can be migraine-inducing. You might face outrageous termination fees or you’re required to have a lengthy phone call with a representative trying to get you to reconsider with special offers or complicated red tape:

  • The lawsuit from James’ office alleges that SiriusXM committed fraud for failing to provide customers with a cancellation mechanism that is simple, timely, and easy to use.
  • SiriusXM trains its agents to not take “no” for an answer when customers try to cancel, according to James’ office. In one case, a subscriber was kept on the phone with a rep for 40 minutes despite the customer’s repeated requests to end their subscription. Once the call had ended, Sirius continued to bill the person and the company said it hadn’t received any cancellation request.

One-Click: To counter such hardball tactics, the Federal Trade Commission is proposing a click-to-cancel provision, which would require businesses to make canceling a recurring payment as easy as signing up for one. It sounds great for consumers, but it has unsurprisingly received pushback from publishers, advertisers, and video game companies. In its comments to the proposal, the Association of National Advertisers said the provision risks accidental cancellations of essential deliveries of food, water, and medical products. We know we’re just newsletter writers, but how about adding an “Are You Sure?” prompt?