JustAnswer Website Automatic Subscription Class Action
The Lyon Firm is investigating potentially illegal automatic subscription schemes and deceptive billing practices on behalf of plaintiffs nationwide. If you have questions about an automatic subscription on JustAnswer, contact The Lyon Firm to review.
A class of plaintiffs has filed a class action complaint alleging that www.justanswer.com, a website on which users can ask “experts” for advice on a wide variety of topics, deceptively enrolled them in expensive subscriptions.
When the users first accessed the JustAnswer website, they were informed that they could consult doctors, lawyers, vets and other alleged experts. Some plaintiffs and class members believed they were speaking with companies’ customer support departments.
Many plaintiffs have used the JustAnswer website to submit a single question to an “expert” for the advertised one-time fee of $5, but instead JustAnswer automatically enrolled them in monthly memberships.
After discovering the surprise charges on their credit cards, the plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against JustAnswer, alleging unlawful automatic renewal membership programs that fail to provide “clear and conspicuous” disclosures. They argue that the company does not properly obtain their “affirmative consent” as mandated by the Automatic Renewal Law.
JustAnswer claims plaintiffs agreed to the “Terms of Service,” which included a class action waiver and a binding arbitration clause when they enter payment information on the website and clicked a button that says, “Start my trial.”
The “terms of service” is a hyperlink to a separate web page that displays the 26-page-long terms of service. On the computer version, user are not required to actually view the terms of service in order to click “Start my trial” and begin using the JustAnswer services.
Attorneys allege that the company may have violated provisions of California consumer-protection law, including the Automatic Renewal Law, the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and the Unfair Competition Law.
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. 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 JustAnswer subscription auto-renewal claims, and other deceptive billing practice complaints for plaintiffs nationwide.
What Are the Requirements for Proper Auto-Renewal?
To be clear, entities like JustAnswer 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.
JustAnswer: What are Automatic Renewal Law Violations?
There have been allegations that JustAnswer may not entirely comply with Automatic Renewal Laws, and may be liable for relevant violations.
JustAnswer users 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 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 JustAnswer or another subscription-based entity may constitute an unlawful practice and affected individuals can contact an attorney to consider seeking compensation and justice.