Financial Times Subscription Auto-Renewal Investigation
The Lyon Firm is investigating potentially illegal automatic renewal schemes and deceptive billing practices on behalf of plaintiffs nationwide. If you have questions about an auto-renewal of your Financial Times subscription, contact The Lyon Firm to review.
Deceptive billing schemes have become a frequent complaint for consumers across the country. Many modern business models rely on auto renewal contracts and companies feed on this continual cash flow. These companies are quick to charge you for a service, but they may be overlooking consumer protection laws that make them liable for deceptive billing violations.
The Financial Times is a British daily newspaper, and has an office based in New York City. If you have encountered subscription issues, contact us for a free consultation.
Online automatic renewal programs are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA), which requires clear disclosures of contract terms, informed consent before a purchase, and an easy method to cancel the charges. Violations of this law are regarded as unfair or deceptive acts or practices under the Federal Trade Commission Act.
Joe Lyon is a class action consumer fraud lawyer investigating Financial Times subscription auto-renewal claims, and other deceptive billing practice complaints for plaintiffs nationwide.
What Are the Requirements for Proper Auto-Renewal?
To be clear, companies can legally automatically renew subscriptions if they make all terms clear and obtain your written consent. Too often, however, companies rely on customer confusion, deliberately bypass these requirements and violate consumer fraud statutes.
There are specific components that must be included in subscription automatic renewal contracts:
- Clear disclosures about the offer: Companies must present the terms of any automatic renewal offer “clearly and conspicuously.”
- Disclosures about the contract period: The contract period must be clearly presented prior to a consumer purchase.
- Obtaining consent: Consent must be “express” and “informed.” Written consent is voluntarily given by a competent individual after details of the offer have been disclosed.
- Written confirmation following a purchase: Written acknowledgment must be given to the customer after a purchase, and must include the initial disclosures, and specific information on how to cancel. If a free trial is offered, this must also include details on how to cancel the subscription before being charged.
- Cancellation mechanisms must be simple: Methods to cancel a subscription must be cost-effective, timely, and easy.
- Renewal reminders must be timely: These vary by state, but companies should send proper notice to customers before their subscription is automatically renewed.
Financial Times Subscriptions: What are Automatic Renewal Law Violations?
There have been allegations that the Financial Times may not entirely comply with New York Automatic Renewal Laws, and may be liable for relevant violations. New York enhanced its auto-renewal laws to include the following key provisions:
- Seller must present the offer terms in a clear and conspicuous manner before the subscription or purchasing contract is fulfilled and in visual or temporal proximity to the offer acceptance request. The offer terms must include the following clear and conspicuous disclosures: (1) that the subscription or purchasing contract will continue until the consumer cancels; (2) the description of the cancellation policy; (3) the recurring amount that will be charged, and that the amount of the charge may change, if applicable, and the amount to which the charge will change, if known; (4) the length of the automatic renewal or continuity term, unless the term is chosen by the consumer; and (5) the minimum purchase obligations, if any.
- Seller must obtain affirmative consent to the offer terms before charging the consumer’s credit/debit card or account with a third party.
- Seller must provide the consumer with an acknowledgment in a manner that can be retained by the consumer, which acknowledgment must include (1) the offer terms, (2) the cancellation policy and (3) information on how to cancel. If the offer includes a free trial, the acknowledgment must include information on how to cancel and allow the consumer to cancel before the consumer pays for the good or services.
- Seller must provide a toll-free telephone number, an email address, a postal address if the seller directly bills the consumer, or another cost-effective, timely and easy-to-use cancellation method.
- Seller must provide the consumer with a clear and conspicuous notice of any material change in the terms of the offer and provide information on how to cancel in a manner that is capable of being retained by the consumer, prior to implementation of the material change.
- If seller sends any goods or products to a consumer under an automatic renewal or continuous service agreement without first obtaining the consumer’s consent, such goods or products will be deemed an unconditional gift to the consumer.
Can I File a Lawsuit for Deceptive Billing Practices?
Magazine subscribers who have been unwittingly entered into an automatic renewal agreement should contact a consumer fraud attorney and consider taking legal action. The Lyon Firm believes that companies that mislead their customers into agreements should be held liable and compensate customers for any violations.
You may ask yourself the following questions before contacting an attorney:
- Are your magazine subscription terms and conditions clear and conspicuous?
- Did the company clearly explain their automatic renewal program?
- Does the company have clear instructions on how to cancel a subscription?
- Did the company obtain your affirmative consent before charging you for the product or service?
- Did the company give you proper notice (30-60 days) before your subscription contract was renewed?
Multiple states have updated consumer protection laws that prohibit companies from automatically renewing subscriptions without obtaining proper consent or clearly explaining the terms and conditions of the contract. Federal laws also protect consumers. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), businesses must take proper steps to ensure that charges to customers’ credit cards and accounts are authorized.
Any violations of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act by the Financial Times or another subscription-based entity may constitute an unlawful practice and affected individuals can contact an attorney to consider seeking compensation and justice.