SeaWorld Membership Auto-Renewal Investigation
The Lyon Firm is investigating potentially illegal season pass automatic renewal schemes and deceptive billing practices on behalf of plaintiffs nationwide. If you have questions about an automatic SeaWorld membership renewal, contact The Lyon Firm to review.
According to a recent CBS investigation, SeaWorld annual pass holders reported being unknowingly charged for an automatic renewal of their park membership. Following complaints against SeaWorld, CBS looked further into the company’s auto renewal membership policy.
One man was allegedly charged $650 for 4 annual passes, after he had purchased 2021 season passes. The individual says he received no notification, only the charges on his credit card.
CBS staff went through the online process of buying an annual membership and found in small print that buyers are automatically opted into an auto renewal and embeds a link to Terms and Conditions. Individuals question the alleged lack of transparency.
In July 2022, a new California law went into effect that says annual members must be notified within 15-45 days prior to being charged for a renewal membership.
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 SeaWorld membership 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 SeaWorld can legally automatically renew memberships 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 membership 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 membership before being charged.
- Cancellation mechanisms must be simple: Methods to cancel a membership 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 membership is automatically renewed.
SeaWorld Membership: What are Automatic Renewal Law Violations?
There have been allegations that SeaWorld may not entirely comply with Automatic Renewal Laws, and may be liable for relevant violations.
SeaWorld annual pass holders 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 membership?
- 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 membership contract was renewed?
Multiple states, including California, have updated consumer protection laws that prohibit companies from automatically renewing memberships 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 SeaWorld or another company may constitute an unlawful practice and affected individuals can contact an attorney to consider seeking compensation and justice.