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Cancelling Dropbox Pro is hard (useloom.com)
597 points by riboflavin 51 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 401 comments



If it's harder to leave than it is to join, then I'm not using your stuff. It's mildly condescending and very transparent and so I don't want/need to deal with it. If you believed in your product, you wouldn't do it.

I subscribed to the New York Times with a simple one-step "put in your credit card deets". One year later I was going to leave the country so tried to cancel it. After several steps of forms you get the phone number of someone to call to cancel (remember phone calls?!). They put the hard sell to stay.

My plans changed, I stayed in the country. I really loved my NYTimes subscription (I miss my crosswords) - but ain't no way I'm signing up again until they make it equally easy to leave as it is to join. I apply that to every company I deal with now.


This is a dark pattern usually dying companies like to follow. Why? Because, if you are confident of the value you provide to your customer, you don't need to be so aggressive about not letting them go. Yes, retention is an important KPI, but trust and transparency are even more important than anything else, so companies that offer little value and can't keep up with competition usually do this because they know they are dying.

A little while ago, I noticed the dark pattern that dropbox uses and showed it to my friend while talking about dark patterns. Turns out he was in charge of his university for selecting a good vendor for file storage. He saw it and immediately said 'fuck that' and went for another vendor instead. You see, this is how dark patterns shoot you in the foot - the cost of trust and transparency is even higher. In this case, dropbox lost significant money that they could have otherwise won.

Besides, In this day and age, there is literally no value that dropbox offers to its users. Their competitors offer way more value for similar price points and the experience with dropbox isn't even that good. All they have is their brand name, which will also be gone soon after they've tortured their customers with these dark patterns.


The insidious thing about this from their side is that retained revenue from dark patterns shows up in a report someone can use to justify a promotion but your friend’s situation will forever remain anecdotal (in their reporting). Growth teams run amok.


The NYT at least lets you use PayPal. When I wanted to cancel I couldn't even get through to a rep, so I just switched my payment method to PayPal and then deauthorized the recurring payment from PayPal.


So much this. I LOVE paypal as a user because of it. All my subscriptions go through it and if it isn't offered via paypal, I'll reconsider.

I love to see a list of all my subscriptions with the ability to unilaterally cancel my subscription at any time via PayPal... I never even contact the companies I 'unsubscribe' from... I simply remove their access to my paypal.


Just be careful with this. Some companies will treat this as if it were a bounced check and keep your debt going.


I wouldn't put it past they NYT to do it. They could say that for privacy reasons the billing department can't view the last time you were logged into your account, and boom, they can argue that if they didn't pursue payment, you could be getting features from your paid account for free.


Most recurring billing APIs provide some sort of notification or query about the status. They could reasonably do "for each payment we got yesterday, extend the expiration date of the associated account."


Sure. They could also let you easily cancel online. But they don't want to. And if you refuse to pay for a subscription contract you entered, but didn't cancel, you owe them.


That sounds pretty unlikely to me.


I've done it to 40-50 internet companies.

My experience is internet companies don't collect debt the way you describe. It's the offline companies that do (ISPs, gyms, utilities, banks, etc)

Edit: they also need to inform you before sending your debt for collections, giving you time to get it right with them before any credit score issues. Seriously, people are so worried about keeping their promises to companies that don't reciprocate that concern. Most companies just deal with the consequences of breaking the rules. Why shouldn't we apply the same to them as their users?


From a legal perspective, would it be enough to send them an e-mail telling them that you no longer want to subscribe to the services before pulling the plug?


Probably depends on whether you email an appropriate address?


It really doesn’t. You wouldn’t even need the email. If this ever went to court the NYT wouldn’t win. Judges are human beings, not computers, and they consider circumstances. All you have to do is demonstrate intent, and not use the service so they can’t argue you received benefit without making an attempt to cancel.


Do you have an example of this?

I'd imagine this is in the Paypal terms when the company chooses to integrate with them and that 'debt' isn't enforceable


Does PayPal allow that? If they are smart, they'd put into their ToS that in order to use PayPals subscription feature to receive money, you have to agree to let people cancel through it and honor this.


Other than PayPal monetizing your payment history, sure it’s great. Apple makes it even easier.

This is tangential, but on the topic of PayPal and privacy, this article is interesting about PayPal and HIPAA: https://simple.icouch.me/blog/is-paypal-hipaa-compliant-revi...

Short answer: if privacy matters, PayPal is a non-starter. I don’t want news publishers to have my information either. I know publishers like to howl and whine about “owning the customer relationship,” but unless they allow Apple for subscriptions, I won’t subscribe. I don’t need to be constantly reminder if their “special offers.”


If privacy matters, any credit card is a non-starter: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-30/google-an...


Pretty much any credit card mines your purchases. PayPal isn't special in this regard.


What is the alternative? Is, what do informed people do instead of using credit cards or PayPal to buy things? (I assume stripe is the same)


Checks, ACH, wire transfers. Bank to bank, for free or very low fee (compared to transferred amount, like 20 bucks to transfer $$$$ with 1 day settlement for a wire transfer)


iDeal- basically money from my bank account to the bank account of the person I'm doing business with. Instant, free and no Sillicon Valley dipshit middle men parasites.


cash?


Pretty sure Chase and banks do the same.


I'd also like to add that despite the negative publicity PayPal gets from the merchant side, it's also preferred over credit cards by merchants for better handling of "disputes".

Some consider paypal to be archaic, but it's bleeding edge payment tech when placed alongside traditional credit cards.


As someone who did millions of $ via PP as merchant, I can say the experience is great as a consumer usually but really stinks as a merchant. We had a far higher fraud rate on PP than CC and it was a high price to pay really. Especially because after enough users chargeback or dispute, even though it was very clear they were just scamming us for free product (you could very clearly see it as they did not even tried to hide it; they knew PP would side with them), they would not go in discussion but just block our funds for 30-90 days. Lovely as a startup to have 400k usd blocked for 3 months...


To be fair the manner in which you were defrauded for product sounds like it can also be easily done with credit cards. That being said, I'm pretty sure PayPal can also be hit with a chargeback from credit cards, which they pass to you.

Had it happened with a credit you'd not only have your funds immediately blocked for 90 days, you also get hit with processing fees regardless of if the customer was scamming you or not.


But the blocking of the funds, unlike with Cc, were the non chargebacked funds so our rolling cashflow. With Cc we only lose that one customer payment and that is it. PayPal blocks the entire account. That is very different.


Regular cc merchant accounts will do the same if they believe their risk threshold has been met and this will vary depending on your merchant bank. But I do think that PayPal's threshold is much lower than most due to the higher level of fraud and the fact that no human being seems to work in their customer service and risk management departments. It's all bots, all the way down.


Years ago I used PayPal to pay for an on demand server that was advertised to be ready within an hour. Twenty four hours and zero servers later, I had already gone to a competitor and asked for a refund. The company refused and PayPal sided with them. American Express sided with me. I closed my PayPal account forever that day.

Now we have even better tools available for subscriptions. Check out privacy card.


The privacy card privacy policy isn't very comforting. I assume its partially boilerplate but it did keep me from signing up a while ago


In my experience with credit cards they almost always side with the customer for small charges, and for extremely large charges (and if you're a big enough company) they side with the merchant. I had case where free credits were offered for a cloud provider, but they decided to bill me anyways. Chase decided to validate the charges, and it was clear through multiple calls each agent was making things up about why it was validated (They would give different reasons anytime, from how I worded "free credits"). In the end the cloud provider admitted to the mistake and ended up siding with me, despite chase siding against me (they're supposed to be on the consumer's behalf). So I think in your case Amex probably didn't even consider or evaluate the terms of the sale—they just refunded you because it was within some parameters. This of course can work for or against you depending on the situation.


You are probably right. It was a small amount. I would be surprised if the charge back approval wasn't completely automated. But at least they side with the consumer some of the time. PayPal was just straight up "nope, we don't care that they didn't deliver the product at all".


The OP’s conplaint is actually that paypal sides with the consumer too much, enabling fraud. If I wanted it’s fairly easy to do since paypal pretty much refunds on request if you show you return something, and by something it literally means anything, including an empty box.

The disputes system is horribly inefficient. Reqarding fraudsters is worse than simply losing the money to mitigation efforts, as reqarding them incentivizes them too!

Right now payment processors are fairly detached from the negative repercussions, so they basically encourage customers to do chargebacks or disputes.


I've recently paid for a VPN subscription using BitCoin. When you do BitCoin there is no auto renewal and I consider it to be a good thing.

EDIT: s/now/no


It's a pita for the service provider who is implementing the subscription logic, but as the customer it's pretty sweet.


Isn't the logic the same as a gift subscription? Just at the payment stage you send them to BitPay instead of Paypal?


The main difference is customers will send the BTC a few minutes too late, and then it turns into this situation where it has to be refunded. This used to be an extra step when using Stripe for BTC payments (they have since stopped supporting BTC payments completely)


Which provider?


It was PIA - PrivateInternetAccess. I first tried ExpressVPN and for privacy I'd recommend ExpressVPN because they located in a place with no data retention laws. However PIA has port forwarding support and that is crucial for my case.

Both support payment via Bitpay. ExpressVPN returned the money no problem after I've discovered that they don't do port forwarding.


I'm using IPredator. They give you a dynamic IPv4+v6 address and you can pay with Bitcoin.


I'm sure there are many more, but Mullvad is one VPN provider accepting bitcoin payments (as well as cash).


Mullvad has been great. Very easy to setup and they do not take any of your personal details. Instead of a user/email and password, you get a random account number that is used to track your payments and authenticate you.


This reminds me of a service I signed up for once years ago, can't even remember what it was, but I had no idea how to cancel it and it was direct to my card instead of PayPal.

What ended up happening was I went to the "Edit payment info" page and just entered my card number as 4242 4242 4242 4242, which is a Visa testing card number.

It authorized it as valid and I never dealt with the company again.


You realize this can constitute fraud, right?


Can you explain that, surely fraud requires you to gain something by deception; stopping paying for a service you are no longer using is neither acquisition nor deception.


Agree. I wasn't using the product and nobody's identity was being stolen. If a court ruled it as fraud (nobody has tried suing me yet) I would be surprised. The business is at fault for using dark patterns to try and social engineer away my money.

By the way, your karma just reached 12345 so that means you've achieved HN Gold status. Congrats! Now never post again and stop receiving votes so it can stay that way.


number of people that will go to jail for doing this: 0

the only fraud here is your advice


This is the same reason I pay bills via my bank bill pay rather than giving EFT access to the folks who send me bills. One point of control, and the bank is invented to help me with payment issues rather than throw up roadblocks.


Yeah, it's not all peachy there either. I made the same assumption till I went to the bank to "block" a service-provider that kept insisting on billing me. They "blocked" the service-provider from charging me for 3 months, then they were apparently obligated to let it through because they could only do it for 3 months. At which point, the service-provider just back-charged me for those three months and continued anyways.


I mean I actually have the bank send checks. Is that how you had that set up?


Do you not need to worry about the mail getting lost?


No, mail service is pretty good.


That's what I thought too, but then I got Informed Delivery and saw some envelopes never arrive...


Mine always arrive eventually, sometimes just not on the day the email is sent.


I've seen that happen too, yeah.


I figure the folks owed money will follow up with me, and have never had that happen.


Yeah this is why I'm quick to use paypal. If I can't cancel it online I'm just going to deauthorize that shit.


That's all kinds of stupid. You might retain some cash in the meantime and feel better about "sticking it to the man," but the reality is you entered into an agreement and from both legal and corporate perspectives, you're defaulting and committing fraud. Is it right? No, not at all. Do I hate that it works this way? Absolutely. But sticking your head in the sand and pretending everything is fine is a great way to get screwed. Enjoy it while it lasts; it's only a matter of time before you defraud the wrong corporation who will bend you over a barrel and show you the 50 states. I've worked in my fair share of customer service and customer loyalty departments before and I've talked to enough people who had no idea their debt had been sold to a collections agency to even pretend that your approach is the right approach.


If a company wants to face the worst Streisand effect they've ever experienced they can go ahead and try to put me over a barrel because their shitty sales tactics make it incredibly difficult to cancel their service.

It should be illegal.


This happened to me too with NYT. 20 minutes on the phone with some poor woman whose compensation I'm sure depended in part on convincing me not to cancel.

I was really surprised because they generally have a good reputation as an organization. I'll never let them get their hands on my payment details again.


When I cancelled NYTimes last year, I gave an explanation of my reason for doing so. Once the hard sell came, I simply repeated "cancel" every 5 seconds until she gave up. It saved us both a lot of time, but I still probably had to say it 6 or more times before she gave up.


Thanks for sharing, I will avoid them for sure. I periodically get tempted.

I found canceling MIT tech and the Atlantic to be painless btw


There should be a way to cancel this sort of thing with your bank. On a recurring basis.


I suppose you could use something like Privacy.com and just revoke the card.


Thats a good way to get 100 calls from a collection agency.


I’ve had that happen to me once in all the years I’ve been doing this sort of thing. A BBB complaint sorted that out pretty quickly.


What are the consequences of a BBB complaint? AFAIK it’s just like an older Yelp with a more confusing reputation.


Any advice on the BBB complaint? I’ve never considered it before now.


The BBB is an absolute joke; you buy your ratings. As someone who's had direct contact with the BBB in a corporate context, I can say with absolute honesty and surety that the ONLY criteria that decides a corporation's BBB score is whether or not they paid the annual BBB administration fee. Ask around, talk to your friends who have had direct access- they'll confirm what I'm saying 100%. Filing a complaint with the BBB does precisely dick and angrily saying "well, I guess I'll go file a complaint with the BBB as soon as I'm off the phone with you" when on the phone trying to cancel a service serves only to make the rep you're talking to mute their microphone so they can laugh out loud at you. You think the rep you're talking to gives a flying lawnmower about your little BBB complaint? If you do, I own a bridge in California that I'd love to sell you.


Stopping payment is not the same as canceling a contract. You are basically acting on the premise that it's not worth going after you. That might even be true in all cases, but it's still disingenuous and probably unlawful.


Unless the contract bound you to a specific term, I don’t think they will attempt to send you to collections. What do you owe if you haven’t contractually agreed to a subscription term?


If you agree to pay someone $X every month, then unless you tell them you don't want the service any more, you are still liable for the payment.


Not if they don’t give you a way to contact them.


Except they do give you a way to contact them. They ALWAYS give you a way to contact them. The fact that you can't follow their cancelation process all the way through is on you, not them, and that's exactly how the courts treat it after your account becomes delinquent and is sent to collections.


Hmm, legally you phone, verify your identity and say you're cancelling. Sure, they want to speak for 20 minutes to wear you down to say you'll accept a deal or try a couple more months ... but you're surely not obligated to listen. Once you've id-ed yourself and said "I'm cancelling" then you're done. Hang up. Sue them if they charge you again.

Companies rely on us feeling the pressure of social conformity.

Indeed legally I expect you can cancel by any reasonable means?


I just tried one place. They didn’t want to “verify” me as they had an old or different address on file for me. Tried to play cute with my name too. I recorded the interaction though.


They usually do, it's just that most people don't think of sending physical mail, nor do they consider it a reasonable way of dealing with such things (and they're right).


They could do something sneaky and keep your account access valid for a year even though they couldn't charge your card. Then just send you off to collections.


If they try to ask me any questions about cancellation I just say "that's none of your business." It almost always gets the questioning to stop.


Happened to me too. Guy actually laughed at me when I refused a six-months-for-free-if-you-stay option. In that instant I committed to never giving the NYT another dime of my money.

Another one is the ACLU. Easy to start, damn near impossible to stop without just canceling your card. All I wanted to do is change to a different card, but they ignore me. Great way to ruin your reputation.


I made a one-time donation to the ACLU, and they subsequently spent it all on mailing me crap asking for more.


If you'd like to donate to the ACLU in a way that lets you easily change/cancel your donations, I recommend using Sublime Fund (https://sublimefund.org/). Disclaimer that I am a founder. We deduct the cost of credit card processing, but we don't charge any sort of platform fee.

Donating should be easy, but canceling should be just as easy. You can do it through our website anytime without speaking to anyone.


I would never even consider donating to an organization if I have to think about using a service like yours, I only donate to organizations that I like and are trustworthy, but thanks anyways


Lmao my NYT guy actually switched into a stereotypical Chinese accent when I didn't catch sth he said and asked him could he repeat (my surname is Chinese)


Mimicking an accent can help understandability, fwiw.

Might not apply here, but it's possible they were just attempting to be understood.


There's no way to save this one. I would be annoyed if someone used a stereotypical southern accent after finding out I'm from Georgia. They wouldn't get any of my money.


I've changed my ACLU monthly donation amount and credit card many times without any issues, it's a pretty simple online form.


How do you determine how easy it is to leave before you actually need to do it? Before even signing up?


This tool is highly useful: https://backgroundchecks.org/justdeleteme/

It ranks hundreds of websites from "easy" to "impossible".


Looks like that is more about closing/deleting the entire account than cancelling a subscription. I'm more interested in cancelling my subscription than to delete my profile. Still a nice website, just not really something I'd find that useful. Thanks for sharing


Interestingly enough, HN is listed as "impossible".


Because it is. How would delete account work in a threaded forum? Delete all your posts?


Give you three options:

1. delete all your posts the same way they would be deleted if you went to them and pressed the delete button.

2. Anonymize them (replace user name with "deleted user <randomnumber>").

3. Keep storing the username

After that, delete all other data (profile, settings, e-mail, password hash, ...)


Yes.


Could gdpr endanger sites like this? Actually curious


How would it? GDPR only protects personal information of individuals, and even then only in specific cases.


Wasnt sure if it was individual humans and not 'persons'


GDPR is so poorly specified that not even its authors know how to interpret portions of it.


Reading about the experiences of others. Or asking around.


It's sad that that's the only way at this point. Maybe sites will start bragging about how easy it is to leave if it becomes taboo enough to make it hard to leave (akin to "100% money back guarantee if you don't like it!"). Until then, someone's gotta be the first to try the poison.


100% money back guarantee is also something that's usually gated behind a sufficiently annoying process that few people take advantage of it.


Personally, I would just assume they're all like that, to varying degrees. Everyone optimizes the "on-boarding" process that they completely neglect how to let customers get out.


Not true. I cancelled Netflix last month, no problem.


I do a search for canceling that business, before I sign up. If I see a bunch of horror stories, then it's time to walk away.


Here at HN.


Fascinating. This retention tactic is usually pitched as a successful last-ditch attempt to retain subscription customers, but it comes at a hidden cost to the brand - and losing repeat buyers like yourself.

Comcast, Blue Apron, credit cards, etc. do it but I didn't think publishers were getting to this point.


In France, on of the biggest journals, Le Monde, is also a hassle to unsubscribe. Subscribing is very easy, just enter credit card online. But for unsubscribing, you have to send a registered letter with recorded delivery. This is a hassle, you have to go to the post station, and is also pretty expensive (around 5-10 euros), which is almost the price for 1 month subscription to the journal. I find this unbelievable that you can't unsubscribe online (even for the online edition).


Many legal systems recognize a fax (with delivery receipt) as equivalent to a letter with recorded delivery.

Setting up something that lets you send those is a hassle the first time, but after that, sending a fax is about as easy as sending an e-mail.


I just canceled my NYT subscription based on this comment. I was able to do so by logging into my account, following the "Cancel" link, then choosing the online chat option. It wasn't as easy as an automatic cancellation, but it wasn't terrible. Here's the transcript:

Isaiah: Hello Jay and thank you for contacting The New York Times! My name is Isaiah and I will be able to make any changes to your account today! One moment while I pull up your account.

Isaiah: I have located your digital account and I would like to personally thank you for being a Basic digital subscriber with the account number (XXXXXXXX)

Isaiah: If you don't mind me asking, what led you to cancel? I would love to gain your insight and see if there are any potential issues that I may resolve for you.

Jay: Please cancel my subscription.

Isaiah: May I ask why you wish to cancel?

Jay: I decline to answer that. Please cancel my subscription.

Isaiah: please note that leaving will put you back at 5 free articles per month and you will no longer have unlimited access to our content. Any saved Cooking recipes will stay saved but you will not be able to view them until you subscribe again.

Jay: I understand. Please cancel my subscription.

Isaiah: I understand your concerns. Because your readership is important to us, I'd like to extend a special offer for $2 per week for 1 year.

Jay: No thank you. Please cancel my subscription.

Isaiah: You will continue to enjoy all your subscription benefits for the rest of your billing cycle, which ends on February 07, 2019. Unfortunately we cannot issue any credits or refunds for the remainder of this billing cycle.


You're saying it's not terrible, but you had to state "Please cancel my subscription" four times and respond to their questions/suggestions, all of this after you already expressed that you want to cancel just to get there.

What happens when you try to cancel outside business hours? Do they have 24/7 support, do they just let you cancel, or do they tell you to try again the next day?


You're right, and I had "please cancel my subscription" on my clipboard to save some typing expecting I'd have to write it more than once. But the whole thing took less than 5 minutes. So yes it should be easier but it wasn't as difficult as say canceling cable service.

I don't know about canceling outside business hours.


It seems to be a dark pattern in the news/media industry. Even the otherwise enlightened Economist makes you CALL in order to cancel/change your subscription.

Going from a quick, precise and inexpensive communications channel to a slow, synchronous, error-prone and costly one is something that really annoys me.


I just sent them an email in order to cancel but maybe that’s different in the EU.


No, I had to phone.


There was one instance of a subscription that seemed impossible to cancel. I spent enough effort trying. I called the credit card company and explained the steps I had taken and told them I want any future charges to be considered fraudulent. That company got the hint really quickly.

On the flip side I subscribed to cigar afficiando for a year decade ago. Every year I get a renewal notice, every year I get new issues. I definitely have not paid for it since the first year. I don't know if it is to keep subscription stats up or they make enough on the ad revenue. But I'll receive multiple notices each year to renew and they just keep coming for free.


If it’s harder to leave than to join, then it’s also illegal in the EU.

You have to be able to cancel through the same medium through which you can subscribe (so if you can subscribe through email, then unsubscribing only through snail mailing a letter is illegal), and it can’t be an unreasonable effort.

I’m very interested what the consumer protection agencies in the EU have to say about this.


As of July 1, 2018, California also has a law requiring that services you've subscribed to online allow you to cancel online (from SB-313). This should apply to any US company doing business with a California resident.


I've heard that for the Wall St Journal only members with California mailing addresses get access to the online form, everyone else has to call. So the way to get around calling is using privacy.com with a California mailing address.


This is definitely not the case in Germany, unless there has been a very recent change in legislation. There are lots of scummy companies in Germany that make you fax/email copies of official ID to unsubscribe, even if joining was possible with a click of a button.


Since October 2016 this practice is explicitly outlawed (for most cases) https://www.bmjv.de/SharedDocs/Artikel/DE/2015/12182015_Verb...

Although the way you describe it probably wasn't legal for a long time.


They simply violate the law and don't care about it, it's that simple.

It wouldn't be the first time they did that.

I've been waiting since November to try and switch ISPs cause Unitymedia is as reliable as RFC 1149.


> reliable as RFC 1149

Don't tell me... As reliable as Twitter? It's got birds :-D


I'd say that this is more common than not. Fax/mail is the standard among the telecoms.

That said, I'm trying really hard to buy internet from Deutsche Telekom right now without much success, so it might just be that they're really struggling to make anything work at all, and they prioritize selling. I don't know how Germany got here. It's just absolutely insane at this point.


Could you point to the actual regulation? I have not heard about this yet.


If I have to call to cancel I usually just make a fraud complaint. It causes more pain to the company in exchange for hassling me this way. I will also never ever EVER use you again if you do this, and I will provide a terrible review of your product to anyone who asks.

Pretty much any kind of slimy "roach motel" sales or customer retention tactic get your company instantly placed in the bottom circle of hell in my mind.


They deserve it, but, does the law have your back on this, or are you accepting some risk of being charged with false accusation?


privacy.com is probably what you want.

You're making it a pain in the butt to cancel? That card is no longer valid.


Remember that this is not cancelling, and some companies can and will sell your bad debt to collection agencies.

You don't get out of contracts just by ghosting on them.


What PayPal should do is offer a “PayPal subscriptions” product where the terms require cancellability through PayPal. So NYt and others can’t offer PayPal unless they agree, and when a user cancels through PayPal, PP agrees to send an API call to NYT notifying them.


Paypal has recurring payments and I thought it was exactly this. Never tried to cancel via Paypal, so I am not sure how this works.


That’s not entirely true; it seems to depend how much effort you put into informing them that you want to cancel. If they make it too difficult, then they’re creating all sorts of legal issues. They’d have to be pretty ballsy to sell it to a debt collector at that point—it does happen, but it’s pretty rare, and I’ve never heard of anyone actually being forced to pay in the end. That BS just isn’t going to hold up in a courtroom.


Can you expand further on this?


Say you sign up for a gym. The agreement is for $50/month with a year commitment. You give them a credit card to pay.

6 months in, you cancel your credit card (or it expires or whatever).

The fact that they can't bill you doesn't change that you agreed to the plan and that you owe the second 6 months anyway. That's a debt and the gym can (and some do!) choose to go after you for it in whatever legal way they feel. That's collection agencies, and direct lawsuits.

An open ended agreement ($10/month for a newspaper) often will have this same style - you agree to pay $10/month for access, they give you access. Valid until cancelled. If you simply ghost - is that cancellation? Probably not, and it's up to the contract. Of course, most consumer things just drop it and shrug, but that is not a given.


Well explained. Privacy.com gives the illusion of control in this regard (and I love the service) but to enable full user control like this you have to be untraceable after ghosting, which means signing up with a "fake" (I prefer "per-use") identity.

--amend yes it's (close to) fraud so be careful. Lots of things were illegal before they weren't; union strikes come to mind.


That is fraud. Do not use fake identities to buy things so you can then get out of contracts by not paying.


This is true, but only in regards to actual commitments like a yearly gym membership. If your intent is to mitigate dark patterns that frustrate the cancellation of a pay-as-you-go relationship, it's better described as shielding yourself from fraud and extortion.

Still, everybody should routinely use nyms when interacting with parties that needlessly ask for them - if for nothing else than to hinder the surveillance society.


Signing a contract under a false identity sounds legally very questionable


Contracts can be yearly, with or without your will, with the possibility to cancel or not. That could become debt if not paid but not necessarily, there are consumer protection laws against abusive subscriptions, but maybe not in the US.

Services that care about cancellation and charge backs always charge the full duration upfront at the reduced price. Not month to month.

The gym, the newspapers or tinder will charge you ahead for the next month. If they can't charge you, they terminate your access and it ends the contract. You stop paying and you stop being able to use the service.


> The gym, the newspapers or tinder will charge you ahead for the next month. If they can't charge you, they terminate your access and it ends the contract. You stop paying and you stop being able to use the service

Maybe it's different in the UK but many people have got caught out assuming this is the case for gyms.

If you sign a contract saying you will pay £X each month until you cancel then just stop paying, you still owe the money.


What if the service agreement is simply per month, and not a contract? Then privacy.com regular use is fine, no?

As in, suppose a service advertises it open endedly as you stated, but I only needed 3 months of the service, then forgot about it or was traveling, is that considered illegal?


If you have a contract for a service, quite often simply stopping paying does not end the contract - it just builds up charges and past-due fees. If you stop paying your electricity bill, the utility doesn't cut you off immediately - they keep providing service (availability of electricity, even if you're not using any because you flipped the circuit breakers) and charges keep accruing.

Eventually services will be cut off, but contractually you're likely responsible for charges up to that point and the companies involved may end up selling that debt to collection agencies (often for pennies on the dollar).


That's not entirely comparable.

For utilities, you always pay much later after it was consumed. At least a whole month usually. It's a fundamental constraint with distributing water and electricity. You're always in debt with the utility provider.

For a newspapers subscription, you always pay in advance. They can cut it anytime. There is no reason for them to give you access if you didn't pay.


In the UK the utilities take money to meet an estimated bill; meaning most people are usually creditors to the utility. If a customer doesn't rein it in then the utility will often take stupid amounts to meet an anticipated bill.

I think they were threatened with regulation and so stopped being so blatant, but they make money off holding customer's cash.


The projection is roughly the monthly consumption from last year if I am not not mistaking. You should change provider if you're being charged stupid amounts.

The provider certainly allows debt when moving in, while the contracts and payments are setup. Afterwards, I am not sure if the last bill if for the next or past period, probably a bit of both.


Bad debt lists are sold for pennies on the dollar to collection agencies, who can and do make a profit on then collecting a percentage of it.

Planet Money had a good podcast episode on it: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/08/354591198/epis...


Not to mention trashing your credit in the process.


This is no joke. If you get tired of dealing with an annoying Comcast "customer retention specialist"[1] and simply stop paying and stop using their service, they'll keep charging you for awhile, then sell the bill to a collections agency. This hurts your credit rating, and can have all sorts of side effects and take years to repair. It sucks, but it's how things are.

[1] https://soundcloud.com/ryan-block-10/comcastic-service


Just because you stop paying doesn't mean you stopped the subscription. This is why there are late fees in the first place.

If you do this with any sizable company, you will just end up accumulating the original charge along with late fees until it is sent to collections and hits your credit report. Even if you get lucky and they just cancel your service, your lack of payment will still be reported to payment networks and eventually you will be deemed high risk when paying for other things.


This is very bad advice. Do not just cancel your payment and expect things to be ok. You might end up with additional late fees, increased risk scores, notices on your credit report, and collection agencies.

Cancel the service properly and always have proof.


Wouldn't just cancelling the card and sending them a email to their support email saying "I hereby give notice I have cancelledy subscription and further attempts to come will fail".

I doubt any court would go against the consumer in that situation. Especially if you never login or use the service again.


I don't know the legal details but court is a far off thing. Companies don't have to accept arbitrary notices and can send your account to collections for being past-due according to whatever terms you accepted for the subscription.


So how easy is it to cancel privacy.com?


I use Privacy.com but haven't had to cancel. You don't pay for the service, as they make their money in adding as a credit-card company and charging merchants fees (or something to that effect). The trade-off is that I had to give them access to my bank account, which would likely make it much more difficult to cut them off if it came to it.

It's extremely useful though, and they say all the right words when it comes to their revenue and their management of user data. The way I see it: they're basically a credit-card company that gives you much finer control of your online payments; they could probably screw me over, but so could my actual credit-card company. They at least make it harder for other companies to screw me over.


Sounds like a good idea. Basically a concierge credit card service that can negotiate canceling a subscription for you. That's actually the best thing that can happen for these cancel my contract type companies.. You pay a flat fee say $10 and then do the hassle of canceling for you or something. Or you build it in as a perk. The mass aggregation factor gives you some money to get the whole process streamlined for your customers.


Their support pages didn't seem to have any information on how to cancel. I emailed their support and requested to have my account deleted and got a polite reply from a human the next morning saying that they had done so.


Good to know, thanks!


How is this working? Don't they send the unpaid part to collections?


Only for certain things. My experience is anything primarily offline, they collect: gyms, ISPs, gas companies, etc.

Anything primarily online? They don't. Netflix, hulu, most credit card subscriptions that are VC funded (I've done with with countless SAAS providers), etc. I've ghosted them with no repercussions on my credit score or collections calls.

Edit: I also use paypal and click the remove merchant authorization button from there; that might also trigger some kind of forced cancellation?


Mastercard is getting into the cancel subscriptions game too.


NYT is a great example for mindless optimization of short-term metrics. Canceling my subscription during the 2016 presidential race was such a humiluating experience that I would never again subscribe even though I miss reading the NYT. They lost me forever.


Amen. Same problem with Blue Apron and every other meal kit delivery startup.


They make you subscribe (vs purchasing just a single meal), which is very annoying and the reason I don't use them, but I've found them very easy to cancel. You just click a button online. And even better, they then send you a $60 coupon to rejoin a month later.


Sure, it's not like you have to call them, but all the ones I've tried have employed anti-patterns for cancelling meals and worse ones for cancelling subscriptions.


I tried to cancel SoFi Money online (after not using it because of terms I didn't like that they didn't mention til after signing up), and they told me I had to call to cancel... this after everything else on their site that I use is online-only.

I told them if I had to call, I would call my lawyer first, who would be calling them... and then they wrote back that they canceled.

So, these companies don't need to make you call, and even if it's inconvenient, difficult, or impossible to call to cancel, some won't budge. This should be illegal; if I sign up online, I should be able to cancel online. Making these artificial steps hampers business, my work time, my personal time... sitting on a phone waiting or slogging through steps or upsells is not a good way to do business and interferes with everything else.

It hasn't bothered the politicians enough, who are corporate shills anyway, so they haven't made it so companies have to be reasonable with this, like they did with CANSPAM.


If you by chance see this, would you mind expanding on terms you didn't agree with, either here or privately(email in profile)? It sounds like a sweet deal, and I'm considering moving ahead with them.


You can sometimes find a merchant’s direct line for billing in common personal banking sites. There is usually a toll free number you can call concerning on going payments like subscriptions next to a transaction. They got to cooperate or they could run afoul of the bank so I have found the numbers useful.


On that note, I was really impressed with how easy it was to end an xmradio trial subscription just recently. I had gone over a few days into their regular monthly service. I was anticipating something unpleasant, but it was very easy to cancel, and they refunded the new month pro-rata without prompting.


Yup, I'm making a note of this, and will never sign up for a DropBox Pro account now.


How likely were you to sign up beforehand?


it's a good point. I wasn't in the market for that type of service anyways. But, if I was at any time in the future, I'd look at other competitors.


I've cancelled by NYTimes subscription just a few months ago. Didn't have to do any phone calls-- just answered a few questions in the chat, right there on their website.


They "generously" let you use an IM chat now, yes. But there's no excuse for it not being a simple button. The only reason is so they can raise the effort barrier just a bit more.


Had a similar experience when I left my previous ISP. I didn’t even have a choice to keep the service as I was moving. Upgrading the service was an easy click, but cancelling consisted of reading through their help pages to find a number to call, which of course was only open a few hours per week. It explicitly said that this was the only way to cancel.

Instead I simply sent them an email insisting that I wanted to cancel, and that I refused to talk to them on the phone to do it. They replied with a “great offer” to reduce the price. In my reply I simply insisted on cancelling. I didn’t hear from them again, except for a confirmation by post a while later that the service had been cancelled.

Of course, this is much more effort than it should be, especially an emotional effort because being treated like this is very upsetting. But it might be worth trying.


> just answered a few questions in the chat

there is no "just" about that...


They wouldn't let me cancel until I answered the question "how are you doing today?" I said "I want to cancel" but they just repeated the question until I finally said "fine" and then the conversation could proceed. Fun times.


I'm feeling like I just want to cancel?


For this reason I only subscribe via AppStore subscriptions or PayPal whenever possible (and unless I have no choice I won’t subscribe otherwise).


I recently canceled NYT by email in one round.


Perhaps if they know they can retain you by being awkward then they'll try; if they know you won't succumb then they're better saving their "breath".


The daily Washington Post crosswords are a nice free alternative.


I'm an online Washington Post subscriber; IMHO it's well worth $9.99/month.


If you have Amazon Prime, a WaPo subscription can be had for $4/mo.


Ahh, that's why it's $4. I kept waiting for the low price to expire.


I do have Prime; I'm all over this. Thank you.


I wanted to subscribed to Mediapart, one of the very very few independent news site in France. Everything is online (subscription, article) but the unsubscription with requires register mail! That's crazy, they are financed only by subscriptions (paywall, no ads) and not backed by any major media group/tycoon/the state, but they still rely on this dishonest practice. I read that you can unsubscribe by email, but if it's not written in the terms and conditions I'm not going to trust them on that. What a pity.


How do you know how difficult it will be to leave before you sign up?


For services like that it might be easier just to get a new credit card ;-)


Be careful with this. I had a monthly charge from several vendors. Despite phone calls, letters, etc. cancelling the service, they would keep charging. So, I said, 'screw it' and got a new card.

The next month -- on my new card -- the charges appeared.

Turns out that Visa will honor a recurring charge even if the old card number has been cancelled. Insane. You will need to move to an entirely different type of card. Don't know if this is true for the others (Amex, discover, etc) but I was shocked that this was Visa's policy.


The account number update feature can be turned off for accounts at the credit card company I work for. It must be done before the account is cancelled, though, and the setting itself is not widely known by front-line reps.


What are credit card deets?


Deets is just a shorthand for details.


Oh I assumed it was some new temporary credit card thing!


Exactly the way I feel. I'm willing to lose big just to make this point to every company I deal with, nowadays. 'Too many Mutha'uckas...'


pbs did this to me (wgbh). Pissed me off.


I don’t get why NY Times gets so much grief. They are fast and friendly on the phone and usually offer to halve the bill if it’s a price thing.

Dropbox is annoying to me because I have a service that I’m overpaying for, lack basic features like search, up sell with every interaction, and make leaving tough too.


> on the phone

This should be an option, not the only way to cancel.


Why? I’m surprised at the downvotes I got on my original comment.

The Dropbox online cancellation, like many others, is a deceptive, tricky option designed to make you think that you cancelled when you did not to rip you off. Dropbox isn’t unusual.

Why is a phone call so evil? It’s bizarre to me that a arguably marginal inconvenience is more noxious than active trickery.


Can you imagine a business that insisted on a phone call to begin a subscription? Like, say the NYT website had just a phone number instead of a link and a form.

That would severely reduce their circulation.

The whole reason the signup flow is done entirely online is because its simpler and more convenient for both the subscriber and the provider.

Which tells you why they don't offer the cancel flow through the same medium. Because it's too easy. They want to add friction and inconvenience to the cancellation.

It's not as bad as many gyms ("you must (snail) mail a form to our headquarters to cancel"), but it's a step in that direction.


> Can you imagine a business that insisted on a phone call to begin a subscription?

Very clean way to illustrate the ridiculousness.


I want to cancel my subscription. I don't want to explain why to a pleading sales rep telling me about all the great things I'm going to miss while they "pull up my account".


Well, at least in California, it is outright illegal (from SB-313).


Retain with pain..

The other day I tried to delete my udacity account. No button in settings, I mailed support, they asked my to mail legal (apparently they don't fwd mail..). From legal I received the following response:

Hello,

We are in receipt of your request to delete your account. We are sorry you want to leave the Udacity family; you will be missed.

Before we can proceed with fully processing your request, we need to verify your information. We take these steps to minimize risk to the security of your information and of fraudulent information and removal requests. Specifically, we ask that you provide the following pieces of information:

- Username and email address associated with your Udacity User Account (if different from the one you provided in your initial request);

- Online Courses currently or previously enrolled in;

- Approximate date of User Account registration;

- Country of residence; and

- A statement under penalty of perjury that all information in your request is truthful and that this is your User Account or that you have the authorization to make the request on behalf of the owner of the User Account.

If, after you have provided the above information, we are unable to verify your identity and/or authority to issue the request, we may reach out to you for further verification information.

As a reminder, any deletion actions we take in response to your request are not reversible and may result in Udacity (or you) being unable to retrieve information about your account, enrollment, and records of completion. Please also keep in mind that all removals of such information are subject to requirements to maintain certain data in our archives for legal or legitimate business purposes.

If you have any questions about this request please see our Privacy Policy or let us know.

Thanks for your understanding.

Udacity Legal Team


> A statement under penalty of perjury that all information in your request is truthful and that this is your User Account or that you have the authorization to make the request on behalf of the owner of the User Account

That strikes me as really extreme. If I had an Udacity account and someone tried to delete it, I would be annoyed, but I wouldn't seek to press criminal charges against them.


Their concern is probably someone deleting somebody else's account, along with all record of courses completed, etc. Is it possible to have an Udacity account if you're not actually paying them? If so, "account removed" and "unpaid account" are very different things and the transition between them is one-way.


> Their concern is probably someone deleting somebody else's account

Yes, that's what I meant. If some stranger deleted my account, I don't think I would be angry enough to attempt to press criminal perjury charges against them.


It may depend on the real-world relevance of the courses you've taken.

What happens if you're taking part in the Georgia Tech/Udacity online Master's in Computer Science, and suddenly all of your course history on Udacity is gone? Are you then stuck with remotely trying to access records through whatever GA Tech has retained for MOOC students in a degree program? Does it prevent you from signing up for additional courses because there's no record of you completing the prerequisites? Does their platform have a provision for overriding those prerequisites, and what would that have to be based on - word from a professor who taught a MOOC, has never seen you or your work and probably depends on Udacity's listings?

A similar situation could arise if the platform is being used for mandatory continuing education credits in fields that have that. An industry that has CE requirements would often be well-served to partner with an established and stable online learning platform rather than building their own. If you're required to take X hours of CE annually to retain a license but the only proof you have is a PDF certificate from someplace that says "We've never heard of this person," do you qualify or do you end up in licensing/certification hell?


It depends on what an account deletion means, yeah. Is there a GDPR for universities that makes them delete all history of your attendance at that institute? Do customer privacy laws force Udacity to do a more thorough deletion than you might expect if you're treating it like a website rather than a university or vice-versa?


Is that even plausible? Not being government, I can't just declare "Anyone who lies to me is committing perjury, nyah nyah!"


IANL but I think it's perjury to lie in a declaration "under penalty of perjury" only if that declaration is specifically required under the law or if you are submitting it to a legal body, such as a court, or to achieve an expressly defined legal outcome. For example, the DMCA specifically requires such a declaration when making a complaint, so private parties can require it and you could face criminal prosecution for lying.

On the other hand, I have no idea what legal justification could Udacity claim. It's probably bogus.


Yeah, they might as well require you to write "under penalty of murder" while they're at it.


If I had a nanodegree and was listing it on my resume or mentioning it in job interviews, I'd be pretty upset if someone came in and deleted all proof that I had completed it.


Yeah, I'd definitely be pretty upset if someone wiped the record of my college degree, but (I hope) Udacity courses don't cost nearly as much as I had to pay.


Do employers often depend on "nanodegrees" (first I've heard the term) such as Udacity?


Depend probabbly not, but "hey there is this thing this guy did" might be a real thing. Probably not weighted as much as other things but still relevant to some.


But if it's a simple "hey there's this thing this guy did", are they going to go to the trouble to actually verify with Udacity that the person took the course? Probably not.


If it is just a link to click, sure why not?


This is unacceptable - if an authenticated login is good enough to change account details and sign-in info, why isn't it good enough to close an account?

I'm not an Udacity customer, and after reading your account I never will be - I loathe these scummy tactics.


What's 'scummy' about being unable to delete an account?


Many people (me included) hold the opinion that you should be able to control your data, which includes the right to ask a company storing data about you to delete it unless they have a valid justification not to (e.g. they may have to keep payment history for 10 years for compliance reasons).

In fact, in Europe it's so many people that that's the law.


I hold this opinion too but I struggle with the high cost of accidental and unwanted deletion.

To delete your account's content I think here should be email verification or 2FA.


That doesn't automatically justify "scummy". Especially when it's a tiny amount of data.

And what about a company where you can clear out the few bits of data they have, but still can't delete the account itself?


Wow, thank you so much for bringing this to light. Our org is literally in the process of signing up for their enterprise product but I can not in good conscience allow it to proceed after seeing that, it is unprofessional on so many levels. I would expect this kind of contractual bullshit from an NY landlord, not from an education platform.

I know they wont miss our 220ish users, but I hope enough individuals see your post to put a dent in their numbers.


Protecting completed educational certificates for their users free of cost seems reasonable. It's not like they force you to keep paying, they are just not easily deleting your educational history on their platform.


It's worth mentioning that people are completing courses, nanodegrees, and even Master's degrees through Georgia Tech on Udacity. These are significant life events for people trying to change/shift their careers, get that next promotion, etc. Having all records of your Master's degree deleted by a 'griefer' is a terrible thing to have to recover from.

I have no affiliation with Udacity but I feel that yours is an extreme response to a company that holds records of work that is very dear to some people and their careers.


> contractual bullshit

You read the post wrong.


I'll remember to never sign up for that service. Thank you.


Almost sounds like they're about to say GuyWhoWantsToKeepHisAccountSaysWhat


> As a reminder, any deletion actions we take in response to your request are not reversible and may result in Udacity (or you) being unable to retrieve information about your account, enrollment, and records of completion.

Didn't windows 95 popularize the idea of the trashcan - temporary deletion - 20+ years ago? Don't many db tools support the idea of "soft deletes"?

"Hey - once we do this, you can't get anything back, ever, immediately, it's all gone. For good. But we're going to keep stuff forever that you can never see, and we won't tell you what it is. But you can't have your stuff back, ever. It's gone."

Even my "offline" university had the idea of "not paid", "suspended", "active", etc. Keep me on file, and I'll pay again in 12 months when I take more classes, etc.


These days if I want to "delete" an account, I'll just change my email address and password associated with that account. I take help of temporary email providers. Also, I write gibberish in place of my profile data.


Is there an option to simply not pay anymore?

That sounds like a complex process to avoid deleting the wrong things, but maybe not the same for stopping a subscription?


I wasn't actually paying. The account basically dormant and from back when they started and courses were free. I am just trying to minimize my digital footprint by deleting accounts I don't actually use (I'm happy with value for money at coursera).


Ah, that makes sense.

That delete process sounds like a pain, but I suspect even a "reasonable" delete process is gonna involve a lot of steps and be somewhat a pain considering the consequences of actually deleting data.


Thanks for this. Just opened a support case to delete my account.


fyi - given it's annoying to collect all that information, I felt udacity might actually be able to help me with that. So I filed a subject access request under GDPR and asked them to provide me with all the data they have in relation to me..


Years ago I needed to cancel a fax service. They refused to allow me to cancel unless I called them up, which I wouldn't do.

In the end I just changed all my details to some variation of the phrase "cancel account" except the billing details (which I couldn't change) then did a chargeback every time they charged me.

It took them a couple of months to finally get round to cancelling my account (I think it was actually the bank who intervened). It was more effort than just calling the fac company, but I sure as hell wasn't playing their game.


I think it costs them a transaction fee from the credit card company each time too and affects their future ability to use the merchant network when they get too many chargebacks.


Unfortunately it can also really seriously effect your credit rating, but then again anything can do that and credit ratings are silly.


Can it? There shouldn’t be any obligation implicit for monthly subscriptions outside of loans.


You can absolutely be sent to collections for not paying for a service, it happens all the time. As soon as that happens they will report it to the credit bureaus.


Why can’t I send them to some other service?


Send who, the debt collector? "Oh, no, I switched from Dropbox to backblaze. Go get the money from them." I guess you can say that, but I doubt it works.


It’s not debt if you’ve just been automatically renewed. Agreeing to pay X in Y payments is not the same as paying Z for 1 term of use.


Why do you think that? You entered a legally binding contract with an obligation to pay. You refuse to pay without canceling the contract. Why should the fact that it's a recurring payment change anything here?


Modern subscriptions are little more than saved payment information. Merely having someone’s payment information does not give consent.


No, merely having payment information is not giving consent, but you signing up for a subscription service was giving consent to a recurring subscription. That's a totally different situation.


With Stripe, it's $15 for each dispute.


Pro tip in this situation:

Send them an email saying that you are deaf and can't talk on the phone. Works every time I've tried it.


This is brilliant.


Finally the killer application for Google Duplex.


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