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Adobe charges subscription cancellation fee (twitter.com/mrdaddguy)
817 points by CSDude 23 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 587 comments

I got hit with this a few years back. I signed up for Ps CC for a month (I thought) to create an anniversary gift for my wife. I used it ONCE. Tried to cancel and they told me I had in fact signed up for a year, and that if I didn't cancel now, they'd give me two months free.

I didn't want it at all! Anyway, I sucked it up, got on with the remainder of the year, because they wouldn't let me put the cancellation in early, had to do it X months before the end. Then life happened and I missed the deadline to cancel and got suckered for a second year!

Fuck Adobe and this practice is all I have to say, I stick strictly to Open Source options now. It may have been my fault for not reading the first time, but robbing me a second time by counting on me missing the cancellation because they wouldn't let me do it there and then is just scummy.

Sounds like Adobe hired some executives from the cable TV or satellite TV industry, where the fine print on some packages locks you into 24 or 36 month contract terms. They know exactly how to do it with the minimum legal amount of notice to the customer when signing up, and how to write the terms of service for acceptance to make it ironclad. Same with 2-3 year terms on cellular carriers with a "free $0!" new samsung phone.

For a long time the local telephone company in British Columbia (Telus) was giving away "free" xboxes or 46 inch flat screen TVs if you locked yourself into a triple play service contract. Of course the buy-out price to end the contract early far exceeded the value of the product given out.

Australia brought in some consumer law business that didn't have costs or you don't use, could not lock you in.

So for example a phone on a plan is fine as there's a capital good but a gym isn't.

Not as good in the U.K. but we do have some protections. A company can lock you into a contract however at the end of the contract it must default to a rolling 30 days term and the consumer must explicitly renew for a lengthy contract again if you want it. So even if you forget to cancel, you won't get renewed for X amount of years again.

There's two possible outcomes for this.

1. adobe waives the cancellation fee for australian customers

2. adobe eliminates the discounted annual plan for australian customers

> Same with 2-3 year terms on cellular carriers with a "free $0!" new samsung phone.

I really like the moves T-Mobile has done to change this. They very transparent that you are financing the phone on your monthly bill and then receiving monthly credit to off set the monthly payment.

What's wrong with that? If they are giving you 500+$ worth of stuff for you to sign on to a contract, I'm sure they are going to protect themselves from people just signing on to get free stuff and immediately canceling.

If you sign a 2-3 year contract and want to break it before it ends, there will always be some kind of penalty.

Microsoft does this out of all companies. It's not like something limited to "TV or cable", just practically everything.

Japanese cell phone companies did something similar for many years, they all offered two-year contracts with a cancellation fee of around $100, and you could only cancel in the last month before it auto-renewed. The government finally passed new regulation to stop this a few years ago.

The extra insult was they called it a "discount package" (50% off!), but it was already baked into all the advertised prices. In other words you pay double the listed price if you don't take the lock-in.

They still have very misleading text on their contracts and their sales people will try to imply canceling has a cost attached. You could usually get the fees waived if you wasted enough of their support staff’s time.

Krita is pretty decent replacement, if you want a paid alternative, then Affinity Designer / Affinity Photo is half price right now, and they don't use a subscription model: https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/

Krita is basically (one of the) best in class applications for digital sketching/painting specifically. But it's not really a replacement for photo editing or graphic design.

I hear this criticism a lot, but it's simply not true. What doesn't help is what people mean by "photos" or "photo editing".

RAW Photo import and editing is currently limited in Krita, and you cannot export RAW formats. But even professionals tend not to use destructive layer based editors like gimp/krita/photoshop/painter/paintshop pro etc and are instead using dedicated software like lightroom, rawtherapee and darkroom.

But if your output format is not RAW, then you have more than enough to edit "photos".

You have layers, masking, vectors and spatial bitmap editors. That's all any of these editors workflows have been since the 90's. Anything else is extra.

Put me in front of Photoshop on modern mac or IFX Amazon Paint on Irix and my workflow and (sloppy) output would be the same.

I didn't say you couldn't edit photos in Krita, just that it wasn't best in class for that use case. Probably because it isn't really a primary goal of the project.

It's less about what features are technically supported and more about what workfkows the ux is built around, at least for me.

I am just an amateur though, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Seconding (or thirding) Affinity! I switched last year and apart from some functionality about charts and graphs, I am not looking back at all.

Yup Affinity and OS are great unless you have very specific needs.

While Krita can be nice, it can also be a bit difficult and bothersome to use.

For example, there is no printing support. Units everywhere (other than document creation) are in pixels and cannot be changed to millimeters, etc. Tools (like drawing a rectangle) operate on the current layer instead of creating a new one like Photoshop, which makes drawing annoying. Guides aren’t that fantastic to use. There’s a lot of areas that require polish in Krita.

Why would you prefer drawing in a new layer when switching tools?

Because quite often I would like to move or resize an object (and only that object) after drawing it. Note I'm really only talking about drawing shapes, etc, using the standard tools. Not really brush strokes.

I see, thanks.

Curious... why not Photopea as it is handpicked by sites like https://alternativeshub.gitlab.io/graphic-design/ ?

I had this exact issue. I specially chose the more expensive monthly options and read all the fine print, but apparently the cancellation fee snuck by somehow. My solution was removing my credit card, adding a “you don’t deserve to get paid” prepaid VISA charged with ¥200, and canceling anyway. They tried to charge me on and off for about a month — and a random charge attempt 3 months later.

Having to do this is a terrible felling and I feel like a bad person, but I at least put the cancellation fee I would have paid to good use by buying Affinity Designer.

Did it show up on your credit report?

I’m not sure how it works in the US, but in Japan, companies usually send a final notice by snail mail that outline the consequences of not paying.

Adobe hasn’t even sent an email saying yet charge failed and I have to update my payment method out anything else. It’s as if they are aware of how shady the cancellation fee is and won’t chase you down for it.

It shouldn’t if you didn’t consent to taking out debt.

This is why any time there is anything with a date associated with it more than a week or so out I go into my work calendar and add a reminder. Depending on what it is that may be on the date, or a week or even month prior. If it's super important I'll add it to my Google calendar which I don't use for anything except alerts like this that a year+ out where I may not be at the same job but still need to remember.

Honestly, this was a reasonably inexpensive way to learn a life long lesson to keep calendar reminders for distant future, with recurring alarms for several days or more if required. I accepted the defeat, learned from it and moved on.

My wife was/is happy with the anniversary present.

Why not your personal calendar?

Only because I have Outlook open most of the day, and I don't really use my personal calendar for anything.

I don't want my employer to know jack and shit about what I do outside of work hours. Personal info does not belong on corp resources. That includes personal calendar data on corp Outlook/Goog's/etc. That means not using corp network to surf personal social media, shopping on amazon, etc.

I would very much encourage you to really look into this unwise practice. It's not a matter of if, but when, this will come to haunt you someday. You have a personal mobile device, use it for personal stuff. Use your corp provided devices for corp related stuff.

It always amazes me how much info people are willing to turn over to other entities that have no business with it. My favorite are co-workers who allow mobile device management profiles on their personal phones so they don't have to carry around a separate work phone. No way in hell would I ever agree to that!

Stupidity for convenience :p

If I don't have to open up a work laptop to check an email or copy a couple of spreadsheet cells into a reply, and can spend more time with family, I wouldn't call that stupid. Many companies aren't in a position to hand out fully-managed company phones and will just shrug you off.

MDM may be as light as a single app with its own policies, or something as heavy as device configuration (for VPN, remote wipe, etc). Containerised app groups seem to be a good balance.

Sorry, allowing anyone (especially corp) the ability to remote wipe my personal device is an absolute non-starter. That is something that I will never EVER volunter to allow happen. If a company insists as condition of employement, then that is not someone that I will work for. If they are that asinine about this one policy, then who knows where else they are making insane decisions?

This is why for such services (though I haven't used Adobe software in more than a decade) I use single use debit cards like the ones offered by Revolut.

Adobe is in the same ring of trust as a random shady website and one ring above a Nigerian prince.

That contract you signed with Adobe has residual value when they give up on charging you. They don't just move on, they sell it to a debt collection service and then you will really learn about aggressive tactics.

What are these aggressive tactics? Are you talking about spam-like contact attempts or some kind of gangster type activity?

Caveat Emptor. I subscribed to Revolut "Premium" in order to have unlimited disposable virtual cards but changed my mind since and they too charged me the cancellation "break fee". Apparently everyone is using this tactic these days.

As if subscriptions weren't consumer unfriendly enough.

This is a super effective way to get debt collectors sending you messages!

It depends on the company and sales contract, but as you signed up to an agreement for the subscription on these terms it's possible that Adobe would be able to sell the unpaid fees off to collection agencies.

I use a very simple solution for this: whenever I'm handing my credit card information to some service, if there is a slightest chance of such bullshit (which is always the case with any subscription-based service), I just use a virtual card with just enough money on it to pay for whatever I intend to pay. Then they can prolong the subscription, sneak their stupid extras all they want.

This may work in the US (does it, really?) but mostly not in Europe. If the service provider thinks you are a subscriber and don't pay, you will eventually end up in collections. You can't just "stop paying", that will not terminate your subscription.

It mostly work though, although it might not be legal, most companies will drop your subscription after some time if you stop paying. You might receive some letters from collection agencies, but as long as the sums in question are an order of magnitude lower than what is worth bringing in front of tribunal, they will stop after some time.

I don't know where you live, but I know people who've gotten court summons due to non-payment of subscription services. In this case a travel ticket subscription and not Adobe's cloud stuff, but the escalation method is there and used in any case.

Does Europe not have credit scores? Would these sorts of things not end up as derogatory events on them?

Depends on the country, but mostly no, and thank fucking $deity. Credit score systems are an abomination that go against privacy and are used to entrap people into debt and keep not knowledgeable people poor. I find it ridiculous when Americans speak about the Chinese social score system - judging people on debt management and spend is marginally better than on communist-aligning speech. Especially when it's done by for-profit companies that have zero incentive to get anything right.

In most EU countries when you want to take out a loan, the bank takes a look at your current status ( employment, expenses, family, etc.) and debt history stored by the central bank ( which is basically you had a loan of 10k for 5 years, don't own anything anymore) and judge based on that if you're credit worthy or not.

You're saying it's OK to order stuff and not pay for it, as long it costs less than the cost of going to court?

No, it's okay to subscribe to something, stop using it and stop paying it. When your access is cutoff due to non-payment, what's the problem?

> No, it's okay to subscribe to something, stop using it and stop paying it. When your access is cutoff due to non-payment, what's the problem?

Let's look at it from a different perspective. If a coworker and I build a service in my garage from the ground up where I let users pay $100/mo month-to-month, $75/mo for a six month agreement, or $50/mo for a twelve month agreement, you're saying it's fine to agree to the twelve month term, get the 50% discount for a few months, and then cancel your card even though the only reason I offered such a steep discount in the first place is because you promised you'd pay me for twelve months?

Yes. You can always demand 12 * $50 up front.

Just to be sure there's no miscommunication here, you believe it's alright to default on an agreement purely because the person you're doing business with is letting you finance it (at a steep discount and without interest of any kind) instead of demanding a lump sum?

Their argument (and to be clear, how much I agree with it depends on the nature of the product/service, and the amount), is that your subscription had an intended duration, and was priced accordingly, and that you received discounts from the "on-demand" pricing that you would otherwise not have been entitled to.

Yes, there are things like credit scores, e.g. "schufa" in germany. Also, collecting via court order ("gerichtliches Mahnverfahren") costs around 20 Euros in fees and isn't that complex, you hand in 1 form in triplicate and wait for the money.

this is not true i have a default for £40 for a phone sim that they charged me for for 6 months after i cancelled.

I do not owe them the money yet they sold the debt. Nobody cares ... I now have a default on my credit reference.

The whole industry is crooked

Yup, I didn't update my card details and forgot to cancel hosting with a UK provider and they sent a collections agency after me for £16.

Why would you use your real name/address for a cloud subscription trial? I know with my disposable card provider, pseudonyms are a-ok. Sir Donald Mallard IV may have a ding in his credit report, the old chap, but I still can sleep and night somehow.

This is true, but Most of the time it doesnt make a difference.

You can make up any persona on the account and they wont know who to pursue.

The account name and address can really be anything... and this is also true for the CC on file.

Although this is true and will work. It also amounts to some degree of fraud.

I would agree that in most cases this is true.

But we are talking about really deceptive sales practices by Adobe. Fighting fire with fire in this instance seems particularly reasonable.

That aside, engaging this tactic on transactions with merchants with reasonable cancellation terms would be borderline fraud. If you use the services and they satisfied your needs, you really should be paying for them.

How about not giving money or mindshare to a company you think is scummy?

True. But any refill that doesn't state the fact upfront is also fraud. If a company is transparent that you will be automatically charged every year, and has an easy way to cancel before the date, well then that's on me. I've paid those obligations even if I'm not using the product. But if the rebill terms are hidden during the marketing process, and buried away in fine print....good luck collecting from Sammy Davis, Sr, Dirtbag Co.

Another option is to ask your state's attorney general's office to send them a letter. Companies do not like letters from the government.

Fraudulently avoiding being defrauded? Poetic.

Does it really come as a shock that you don't have a blanket right to lie about your identity to protect yourself from possible exploitation?

Capitalism and the machine usually wins.

It really should be illegal.

We make it legal when we click agree on the TOS

That's a very common and harmful misconceptions in our society. But, besides the fact that laws can make abusive terms illegal (and do), it is also very bad for the economic system in general because it increases the transaction cost for the consumer (time, hassle or wrong product choice).

The consumer now has to worry not only about choosing a decent product, but also about ways the company could extract value from them without being transparent about that, or by hiding a clause in their TOS.

Could you imagine how much slower and inefficient the economic system would be if we were expected to read every TOS of every software we install and every single service we sign up for?

No, this is not fine. Do not accept bullshit terms meant to extract value from your pocket at no marginal cost for the business or no benefit to you as a consumer.

PSA: Clicking "I agree" does not automatically make terms legal or enforceable.

You're always free not to use any kind of recent software and throw your computer in the bin. Consumer choice alright!

It doesn't mean the TOS should be legal though.

> they wouldn't let me put the cancellation in early

Everything they did was legal until this. If they won’t process it, send them a letter with your state attorney general’s consumer affairs (or, if you’re a business, commercial division) Cc’d. Address it to their general counsel. State you cancel your contract with them effective such and such date. Contract termination is quite strictly defined in law, for obvious reasons.

How can you back out of a contract without paying consideration/fee?

They're not backing out of a contract. They're opting not to renew the contract early in the term of the contract.

I don't know where you live, but I live in the Netherlands and here it is illegal to bill you for a second year of a subscription automatically. After year one, you can cancel at any time (with, I think, a month of notice period).

I live in the UK. In the second year, Adobe gave me the same option, don't cancel and get 2 months free, or pay the buyout at full price (I took the 2 months so the cost to me was lower) and set a calendar reminder every day for the month proceeding the end date to make sure I didn't forget to cancel it this time, even if I was busy.

AOL pioneered this. And became extremely wealthy for it. Unfortunately it works

what are AOL doing these days?

The execs cashed out after taking advantage of their user. Milked it for everything it was worth, then exited with a sale to Verizon when it was clear it was worthless (actually by then I'd be surprised if any of the original team was still there -- for example Ray Oglethorp left in 2002).

I wonder if this would have been enforceable. Just because their contract says something does not mean it holds up in court.

All it would take is your fleet of lawyers against Adobe's office towers full of lawyers. If you have the resources to back that, be a sport and make the sacrifice for the rest of us.

If that's how it works in your country then it seems likely your country is also broken/corrupt and is effectively 'in on it' (helping the likes of Adobe to steal from you).

Not sure what one can really do about it.

I think also the whole "you'll need an army of lawyers" idea is probably born from confirmation bias (settled cases get NDAs). I wonder if we shouldn't require registering a settled case, if there was any court action (arranging a date, say) then settlement details would be published? I guess it might encourage frivolous suits.

>If that's how it works in your country then it seems likely your country is also broken/corrupt and is effectively 'in on it' (helping the likes of Adobe to steal from you).

How does this get settled in a non-broken/corrupt country? You lodge a complaint and the government launches a fleet of lawyers on your behalf? I'd be surprised if that's a routine response to consumer complaints anywhere.

Small claims court is an attempt to address the problem of court being too expensive. I think legal costs have grown to a point that we need some kind of "medium claims" court in the US (or just dramatically expand the limits of small claims).

Scam victims complain to legislators

Legislators ban scam in consumer protection law

Subsequent victims just get the credit card charges reversed, or a trivially easy court victory.

All it takes is saying 'no' and then THEY have to sue YOU, which would be in small claims court where you really don't need a lawyer.

Honestly, you signed up for the annual subscription so it’s on you. They give a decent cost discount for yearly subscription—it’s only fair to them that they get their end of the bargain.

Important takeaway: only buy month to month plans when testing out services.

EDIT: I’m not a huge fan of subscription models in general. Software doesn’t need to change at the rate it is these days, but it does work wonders for the bottom lines of all these companies.

EDIT2: Monthly payments to open source software is a better investment because they actually need funding, and they aren’t paying shareholders profits.

There’s always someone in these threads who wants to put all the blame on the individual. The fact is Adobe is misleadingly making it look like just a monthly subscription. Proper consumer protection laws would not allow them to do this.

Adobe deserves all the badwill they are getting in this thread, it’s 100% on them.

Their website actively tries to trick you into falling for it.

Honestly, not so much. Perhaps it did before. It isn't great, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a dark pattern.

It does list the "Best Value" plan, but when you go to "Buy", it presents a shopping cart with the following text (no fine print, no other tricks), and even uses the word "commitment":


Annual plan, paid monthly: US$52.99/mo."

Even at that point, the above is in a drop-down, and you can change it to "Annual plan, pre-paid", or "Monthly plan".

How is it not a dark pattern? If they are confident in the value of the subscription, why not print out the whopping minimum total of $635.88 everywhere they mention the price? They do it this way because it is misleading in a way that benefits Adobe.

Just because they benefit from stupid people is not adobe's fault, when it is this clear, people should really be careful about just clicking things and signing up, it's the individuals fault, people or companies are not your friends, this is the case for everything, it's just the way the world works, getting mad at that and then blaming the individual is stupidity and lack of personal responsibility.

They want to charge you as much as possible and get as much money from you as they possibly can, you want the opposite, the end result is something between the two, it's on them to reach there goal, so it's on you to take care of your own money and what you do with it.

No more Adobe for me!

If you're in Australia, I've submitted a case to ACCC. If you're an Australian reading this - do the same, you'll get your refund.

Paying for things is a sucker's game.

Pay for movies, DRM breaks it Pay for software, it's discontinued

Pay for food, you'll just be hungry again tomorrow

This is exactly how contracts for a lot of things, most notably ISPs work in Germany and it's infuriating.

Except that you can put in your cancellation notice early, even on the very first day.

Here you could, too as far as I understand you just get 2 months free if you don't.

At any rate, what's even worse for me is that you can't cancel in the last 3 months of the contract with ISPs which nobody tells you so it's even easier to get stuck with it for an extra year.

> At any rate, what's even worse for me is that you can't cancel in the last 3 months of the contract with ISPs which nobody tells you so it's even easier to get stuck with it for an extra year.

Which is ridiculous. It doesn't require 90 days to de-provision a circuit.

Is this really a cancellation fee or is it just honoring your contract? AFAIK it's very clear on Adobe's page that your options are (1) Annual plan paid monthly, (2) Annual plan prepaid, and depending on the product (3) Monthly plan at usually 150% higher price.


If you signed up for a yearly plan paid monthly, the cancellation fee is finishing your contract.

If you didn't want to agree to pay by the year maybe you shouldn't have signed up for a year of service?

This is disingenuous at best, and fraudulent at worst - and I know ACCC in Australia will take a very dim view. Take the main page for instance, the one you linked - it lists monthly prices. No mention whatsoever of "annual pricing paid monthly" - it's JUST monthly mentioned. Pic: https://imgur.com/sZPfFDI

When you click "See plans and pricing details" it gives you the Annual monthly and ACTUAL monthly prices. Pic: https://imgur.com/gxokkST

If you click Buy Now the ACTUAL monthly price is hidden from view in a drop-down. Pic: https://imgur.com/l05UZra

I don't know a claims court in the OECD that would rule in favour of Adobe here. Misrepresenting the monthly price up-front is false advertising.

This is a dark pattern, Adobe should be shamed.

You're getting lots of replies from (I presume) Americans, who are used to much scammier business behavior than what I know from Germany and you describe in Australia. One related example is the pervasive practice in America of displaying a price without fees (like "resort fees" for hotels that can be +50%) and of course taxes, with the actual price only becoming apparent after additional effort is invested in the checkout process.

True, my views are non-American. For example when I go to a convenience store, I pay the price listed on the item. I don't have to do math in my head that's +x% sales or state tax. That type of practice just isn't acceptable anywhere else.

It's even enshrined into law in some states and locales. A few businesses have tried to market themselves as "no-nonsense, no-bullshit" and put the right prices on things, but that's totally illegal in parts of the US.

It's illegal to put on the price the customer is actually going to pay? My search attempt failed ("illegal to put price with VAT" neither g nor ddg liked it), please tell me more!

In fact, there was a wine store in New York City that tried to post the real prices and had some legal issues, so they would post _both_ the "price before tax" and the actual price (in some format that allowed them to evade the laws, so stupid).

I now live in the Netherlands. All prices are what you pay, _and_ the receipt breaks down how much of that goes to taxes, which I think is completely logical.

> I now live in the Netherlands.

In the EU it's illegal to show prices ex VAT (or other components that might make up the final selling price) to non-business/commercial consumers.


I think, showing the taxes separately is a very good idea in principle, so that you know how much tax you are paying. I usually hate the fact that I can not see how much tax I am paying, although, in Germany, the amount of tax is shown in the checkout pages.

The question is, does the tax matter so much it's worth putting it on every price sticker? I'd argue no - it's not like you can opt to not pay it. I assume your sales tax works like ours (Poland), i.e. per product/service category, so it's also not like you can buy a substitute product with lower tax.

I like the solution we have - price stickers have full price, and printed receipts carry tax breakdown.

Bizarre though it may sound, some politicians in America are in favour of badly designed tax systems, for anti-tax reasons.

By making tax as difficult as possible, they recruit supporters for their anti-tax stance, and they can claim they're delivering on their anti-tax policy by 'making the system collapse under its own weight' or 'making everyone aware of how much tax they're paying' and they can allow loopholes and fraud opportunities and they can collect donations from tax preparation companies.

It's the same here in Germany as well, was also the same in Greece and Turkey. I guess the whole Europe is like this, if not everywhere except the US :)

> The question is, does the tax matter so much it's worth putting it on every price sticker

Especially considering the fact that usually there are 2-3 rates tops, so one can easily remember that 5-10-20% of what they pay goes to the country coffers depending on the product being bought.

I can think of at least one reason where tax calculated on the final total vs each price is better (for the consumer), rounding. With tax calculated on the final total, you pay at most $0.01 extra in rounding “errors”. However with tax calculated on each price you pay at most number of items times $0.01, which is more and could add up over time. I personally want to give the gov as little of my money as possible.

That depends on whether they're rounding, or taking a floor or ceiling :). With proper rounding, it's a wash. I just did some back-of-the-dev-console calculations on a random groceries receipt I found on my desk, and I discovered that if the tax was calculated per item, I'd pay 0.01PLN less of it!

Regardless of the rounding method, the fair way is to sum up purchases and compute tax on the total, precisely to minimize the loss of precision on rounding.

Curiously, as far as I understand the Polish tax code (IANAL), the choice of the method to use is actually given to the vendor! The law recommends[0] that you calculate the tax by multiplying the rate with the total taxable amount, but also allows[1] the seller to choose to calculate per-item tax, and sum that. In both cases, mathematical rounding (half-up) is used[2].

But in practice, there's little to no difference unless you're doing a single purchase of a lot of items with weird pricing bias.


[0] - Dz.U.2020.0.106 t.j. - Ustawa z dnia 11 marca 2004 r. o podatku od towarów i usług, art. 106e., ust. 7.

[1] - ibid., ust. 10.

[2] - ibid., ust. 11.

> That depends on whether they're rounding, or taking a floor or ceiling :). With proper rounding, it's a wash.

Agreed! If they are actually rounding it will be a statistical wash.

> Regardless of the rounding method, the fair way is to sum up purchases and compute tax on the total, precisely to minimize the loss of precision on rounding.

Again, agreed, this is why we do it this way in the US.

> Curiously, as far as I understand the Polish tax code (IANAL), the choice of the method to use is actually given to the vendor! The law recommends[0] that you calculate the tax by multiplying the rate with the total taxable amount, but also allows[1] the seller to choose to calculate per-item tax, and sum that. In both cases, mathematical rounding (half-up) is used[2].

US tax code, at least as far as income taxes go, uses the same rounding method (nearest decimal) however sales tax is can be quite a bit more complicated [1].

Also somewhat related, we quote our fuel prices to 3 decimals.

[1] - https://blog.taxjar.com/rounding-issues-sales-tax-returns/

This assumes VAT is always rounded up, which is not the case in e.g. Germany where it is rounded to the nearest cent - so the average rounding error cancels out to 0.

Note i said generic tax, not VAT. And I’m specifically talking about the US

There are a few details with that:

Does the sticker have to show all taxes or just the sales tax/GST/VAT? I know that pretty much every country in the world has an alcohol tax that is applied to things like wine. So should the sticker also include that?

In the USA they have a particular hatred of making tax easier to pay. There's a political affiliation whose goal is to make filing a tax return harder and more complicated to do so that people will complain more about it and hate the process. So that has created the tax return filing industry and associated lobby groups. So having sales tax need to be applied on top fits within this world view.

But yes I completely agree that the sticker price should include what you actually end up paying for that item. I also like it in some countries where there's a unit or weight cost with the item, so you can more easily compare different branded products. Though they usually make this number comically small on the price tag to make it harder to compare.

> In the USA they have a particular hatred of making tax easier to pay. There's a political affiliation whose goal is to make filing a tax return harder and more complicated to do so that people will complain more about it and hate the process. So that has created the tax return filing industry and associated lobby groups. So having sales tax need to be applied on top fits within this world view.

Which political affiliation and what gives you this idea?

There's been a few articles here on HN relating to free filing and automatic returns and how the tax filing industry is fighting it.

One name that popped up after a quick search inside a long article was Grover Norquist. From his Wikipedia entry he is part of a political association which wants to prevent any rise in taxes. From another article I read long ago it was mentioned that this includes preventing automatic filing since the government could introduce new taxes without people knowing.

Ah so it's not actually this:

> In the USA they have a particular hatred of making tax easier to pay. There's a political affiliation whose goal is to make filing a tax return harder and more complicated to do so that people will complain more about it and hate the process. So that has created the tax return filing industry and associated lobby groups. So having sales tax need to be applied on top fits within this world view.

It's actually this:

> since the government could introduce new taxes without people knowing

Along with increasing gov size, increasing gov expense, and destroying another industry.

I'm all for increased competition in tax filing software, and you're starting to see open source competition here as well. But spreading opinion as fact, and in this case in particularly, is called "misinformation" or "fake news"

It's an opinion I have based on outside observation of the political culture surrounding tax in the USA.

There are groups of people (political association) and vested interests (lobbyists) who want to make tax harder to pay than it needs to be so they can profit from it, either politically or financially.

In addition you need to manually calculate the sales tax for every different county in the USA on top of the sticker price. It has been suggested that this is enshrined in law and/or done by the stores themselves, but the net effect is that this sales tax is at the forefront of people's minds when going shopping.

Nearly all other countries have tax systems where the VAT/GST/Sales tax is already included in the sticker price, so you don't need to know which country has how much sales tax and manually add it on. Additionally lots of other countries have income tax systems where the authority already has all your information and can easily provide you a pre-filled tax return.

Given that the USA does not do these things and people actively block them, then my opinion is that the country as a whole has a hatred of making tax easier to pay. Most people may not want that, but they are either unwilling or unable to change it.

> There are groups of people (political association) and vested interests (lobbyists) who want to make tax harder to pay than it needs to be so they can profit from it, either politically or financially.

NOPE! That's the misinformation. They don't want to make it harder to tax, they want to make it harder for the gov to add taxes. That's it.

> In addition you need to manually calculate the sales tax for every different county in the USA on top of the sticker price. It has been suggested that this is enshrined in law and/or done by the stores themselves, but the net effect is that this sales tax is at the forefront of people's minds when going shopping.

It is enshrined in law in some states, not all. And again the reasoning is so that tax cannot be hidden. Not to make it more difficult.

> Nearly all other countries have tax systems where the VAT/GST/Sales tax is already included in the sticker price, so you don't need to know which country has how much sales tax and manually add it on. Additionally lots of other countries have income tax systems where the authority already has all your information and can easily provide you a pre-filled tax return.

I'll need some evidence of this, as this is not my experience having traveled to many different countries. Some do, not most.

> Given that the USA does not do these things and people actively block them, then my opinion is that the country as a whole has a hatred of making tax easier to pay. Most people may not want that, but they are either unwilling or unable to change it.

Again NOPE. It's a hatred of ever increasing taxes. The gov must prove it needs the money, not just have their hands in our checkbooks whenever they're dry.

So ultimately you have a different view on taxation, and that's fine. What's not fine is lying about why the other side is doing it. This is where that divide is coming from.

The end result of these things is that it makes it harder to account for and pay taxes. More of a cognitive burden on everyone for no real gain.

Same way it is here in india too

In the US it's called sales tax, not VAT, that may be why you're not getting results

In the US, sales tax rates vary by state, county and even city. Some states have no sales tax. It would be impossible to advertise a price for a product when it would be so many different numbers depending on where you are. For example, if a big grocery store chain wants to advertise the price of a 6-pack of Coke, do they list 20 different prices or do they eat the difference in taxes and make the end price the same?

Not saying that this will work in US, but India is also like US, federation of states, with federal tax, state tax, city tax all over the spectrum over the length & breadth of country. All advertisements of car, butter, biscuits, house, anything which can be priced over TV/Media advertises its MRP (maximum Retail Price), which is also printed on product itself too. Retailer use stickers on shelf or on product itself to tell what is the actual price, which by law should not be more that its MRP. The taxes along the route, physically & supplier/trader wise affects the price, but it is illegal for anybody retailer to sell anything more that its printed MRP.

Yes, same packet of potato chips costs R20 at capital R25 at hill stations (but its MRP shows R25).

Forcing after-tax price displays make tax revisions harder to notice so there are pros and cons to that

Aren't tax revisions in the local news?

Where I live (Poland), prices on shelves are displayed in full (more than that, there's the price you'll pay for an item and price per unit of mass/volume, to enable comparisons), but on the receipt, there's always a per-product sales tax summary printed. So if I cared about sales tax revisions, I could easily notice it on the receipt. But most of the time, I just learn about revisions from a news article.

Also not everyone pays the sales tax so it's probably easier to show price without tax and then on checkout you apply the needed tax rate.

Surely most people pay the sales tax, in which case you're optimising for the less common scenario.

In places where including VAT/GST/BTW/whatever is normal, shops (usually targetting resellers or contractors etc) where a significant amount of people don't have to pay the tax, I think generally both prices are listed and it's required to be very clear about what's going on.

That sounds like regulation - except anti-consumer one.

Funny. I find this to be something I appreciate and look out for when buying things or services in Germany, even if it's more expensive.

> I don't have to do math in my head that's +x% sales or state tax. That type of practice just isn't acceptable anywhere else.

Oblig: sales/retail taxes in the US vary city-by-city. While just like the rest of the world: US companies put their MSRP on products - but it would be unfair to expect retailers to charge the MSRP and eat the tax themselves because some areas have zero sales tax but others have a 10% tax. That's bigger than the profit-margin on many items sold at retail - and the simplest solution is just to have everything understand that the price on a box is the pre-local-tax price. And everyone (most people? or just most people on HN...) know roughly what their local sales tax rates are anyway (mine's around 9%) and as everyone pays by card having exact change isn't an issue.

I’ve lived in the UK and Germany and it’s incredibly rare that I’ve seen prices printed on the goods themselves. There’s a label on the shelf with the price. Even when there is a price on the box (usually much smaller stores - never supermarkets), the label on the shelf is often a different price.

To complement, in the EU, if you have two prices, one on the shelf and one on the box, the cheapest one is the right one. The only goods where prices are printed on the "box" are not in boxes, they are books or clothes.

When items get individual prices, they are usually small sticker prices and effectively only in small shops or discount prices in bigger stores.

It's not entirely that simple - if there's a store branded price on the shelf or a sticker, that takes precedence over any MSRP printed on the product itself by the manufacturer. Otherwise people could just rip off store branded stickers and opt out of the store's markup.

Maybe it's just not become an issue since the MSRP on most product packaging here is in £ or $ as they just reuse the UK or sometimes US packaging so it's clear that price is not aimed at Irish consumers.

The seller decides on the price, and labels the goods accordingly. Whatever "recommended retail price" may be printed on the box is of course covered with a sticker with the actual price.

It's about consumer protection. Buyers must know exactly how much they will need to pay to purchase an item BEFORE they pay. It would be unfair to expect consumers to calculate these things.

In Europe and the UK that won't fly. If it came with a price printed on the box, that's the price they should sell it at.

Not a lawyer not legal advice.

Not correct. The price on the 'Box' is the invitation to treat [0]. The price you pay in the UK is the verbal Offer at the checkout. They may/should sell it a the RRP, but it is not correct in law.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invitation_to_treat

Or less, as the store is allowed to discount (officially the reverse: the manufacturer is not allowed to set prices of anyone except themselves, so if a store takes almost no margin or even sells below price, the manufacturers is forbidden to even talk about it.

> but it would be unfair to expect retailers to charge the MSRP and eat the tax themselves because some areas have zero sales tax but others have a 10% tax.

I disagree. If you want to sell something to a market then you should tailor your product to that market. That means doing some basic research about what the local taxes and laws are.

If you travel even 10 miles (16 km), sales tax changes. It is at the county level. The manufacturer cannot afford to analyze this level of granular market and the associated sales tax.

Ideally, the seller should list the price + tax if it is physically sold in a store. This should be fixed (along with the tips culture in US).

Online retailers still have this problem. Sales tax is literally based on the zip code you enter during the checkout page.

So how can this problem be solved? The only solution I see is a federally controlled fixed sales tax similar to EU. But, that would be unconstitutional in US. States hold the power and additional municipal taxes are at the county level.

I think you're trivializing the matter. I've had several conversations with Europeans about it and we eventually come to an understanding that its not easy. On surface, it sounds simple if we assume is a simple nation-wide VAT tax.

Its because your argument fundamentally does not hold water. "It would be too hard for manufacturers..." just is not true. You are trying to tell us that the only way to price something is printed on the original box (not even the product! just the box) and that it would be too onerous to expect them to price at each location accordingly. Are you really trying to insist that a sticker is too hard? Too onerous a task?

Perhaps you're mistaking seller vs manufacturer?

If the former, I already said:

> Ideally, the seller should list the price + tax if it is physically sold in a store. This should be fixed (along with the tips culture in US).

You could pay consumer tax not by the place you live in but by the place where business is located. Any additional taxes could be added by independent institution. Something like customs, just on local scale.

Living in couple of countries In EU and Asia, I can't imagine not knowing total price up front. It's pushing legislation problems on the end customer.

It creates a massive market force to drive down sales taxes. You could imagine that most companies would want to be established with lowest sales tax so as to increase their profit margins or to beat the competitive price of goods and services.

So, now, you have a new problem. Top counties with lowest sales tax in the US will massively attract more businesses forcing the rest of the counties to reduce their sales tax too.

The entire problem boils down to federal vs. local control. US is structured with a balance between local, state and federal powers.

I don't see the problem here.

I think you're being disingenuous. It's not on the manufacturer to make sure the product has the right price tag on it, but on the seller or shop. European shops put price labels on the shelves and their own tags on discounted or specialty goods.

The online retail problem is also trivially solved. If I got to the US version of any online shop as a EU resident I'm usually first greeted by a "which version do you want to browse" popup asking me if I really want the US version and not a different country. This affects the default language, currency and locale as well as pricing. There's no reason they couldn't ask for your zip code if they already have to do these calculations at checkout anyway.

The problem is that there's no reason US companies should do this because there's no competitive advantage in having transparent pricing. This would require legislation (probably at the federal level) but once there's regulations, you'd see these solutions pop up everywhere overnight.

It's funny to hear Americans lament about how it's hard to do business in the EU because of the many differences between countries and then turn around and use state or county differences as an excuse why it's "just too hard" to do what companies are doing in the EU. At this point I wonder if Californians are seeing the same "sorry, we can't figure out how to show you this website without harvesting your data" error pages on US news sites given how strict their new privacy laws are.

>Online retailers still have this problem. Sales tax is literally based on the zip code you enter during the checkout page.

Can't you ask the zip code before checkout, a popup like "If you want to see the real price enter the zip code now"

On the physical store don't you have in US prices printed on paper stickers? Are prices printed on the bottles and boxes and all stores will have the exact same prices? So if this is something you never seen in US let me explain how is done, some products have a recommended price printed on them but shops can put their own larger or smaller price. You will see also labels with full prices s tricked through and discounted prices printed under.

I also seen shops rotating the prices daily, like if they have 2 products A and B , you have prices like

Monday A: 10$, B:20$ Tu: A:11 , B:19 We: A:12 , B:18

so on, I am surprised that the US does not use this scummy price rotating tactics. The "scam" is that the shop will put an ad on radio and say "bananas only X$" , next day the ad will say "milk only Y$" , and each time you will hear the ad you think "this shop has cheap products, I should buy from there" but when you visit the banana will be cheap but in that day mil is expensive, 3 days later will be reversed.

Lots of other things also vary city-by-city, like rent and income or business taxes. Equal MSRPs impose an unfair burden on retailers in expensive places in pretty much the same way as local sales taxes. Businesses everywhere else manage these difficulties without cognitive burden for customers.

Having lived in the US this reasoning makes absolutely no sense. It's not like every store charges MSRP or that stores don't have sales. Every store pretty much has its own pricing and they have no problem showing this specific store's pricing without the added tax. It would be ridiculously simple to show that specific price with taxes added.

So you mean the seller doesn't know the final price before selling? They can't relabel products themselves or they can't mention the final price on the shelves? They just don't want to do it.

Also, let's be honest: a lot of replies from people who need to believe this is ethical because they want to reserve the right to use (or already use) this dark pattern in a product as a "growth hack". Or people who work for an employer who already uses dark patterns of this nature. Startups are rife with this kind of abuse.

Yeah, I've noticed that on HN with some scammy business practices, there is a definite case of "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." People would rather this is allowed and it becomes a game of buyer beware, because in many cases they are the sellers and know the average buyer will not beware.

This is a misconception of what is actually required by US state tax laws. The business is required to pay the tax on retail sales - they are not required to charge the consumer that tax. The fact that it has become common practice for retailers to pass the tax on to consumers to pay is the real issue at large. The same applies to regulatory fees that the consumer pays on utility bills or telecommunication services. The consumer isn't supposed to be paying those, the business is. One of the biggest complaints in current US tax law is that businesses don't pay their fair share. Taxpayers as consumers are directly responsible for that, by not demanding that businesses start eating these taxes that they are supposed to be paying, by putting pressure on politicians to make that the law. Yes, it would be difficult to enforce (business adding tax into product price), but not impossible, as businesses have to track COGS (cost of goods sold).


What? ISP and similar contracts in Germany almody work exactly like this but with 2 years minimum not 1 and no cancelation in the last 3 months of the period.

This is precisely why it's unlikely any regulation will occur to stop this at the source. As long as American customers are happy to bend over to shady business practices by dominant American businesses, the rest of the world will keep experiencing the knock-on effects of this behaviour.

In your country if you get into a yearly contract to rent a place and then break the contract in 2 months. Are there any consequences for the person breaking the contract?

Absolutely. In Australia, the Critical Information Summary will detail the contract cancellation fee and the total minimnum cost (i.e. if you cancel it immediately after the cooling-off period) is explicitly stated right next to the cost that the company really wants to display.

So in the case of $1000/mo rent, and a 1 month cancellation fee, the minimum total cost will be displayed as $2000. If it is the total remainder of the contract, then it will be displayed as $12000.

It's not that there's no consequences, it's that the consumer is clearly and without the need to navigate dark patterns made visible of those consequences.

In the US, it is exactly the same. There are absolutely zero dark patterns on housing leases, it is highly controlled.

I am not sure if apartment lease is a good example.

As a counter example, here are some shady practices and dark patterns in Australia (Internet Service Provider): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haImi4cWau0

What I describe is specifically shown on mobile and internet plans.

Regarding your linked youtube video (which as far as I can tell from skimming, is basically ranting about how ISPs penny-pinch on backhaul capacity and then fail to meet their advertised plan speeds during peak hours), I would encourage you to look at something closer to the present than from 4 years ago. All ISPs now report on minimum speeds during defined peak hours. I believe this is mandated by the ACCC. See the following URL:


A typical ISP plan choice page [1] lists the following information:

1) Monthly price (e.g. "$79/mo")

2) Minimum total cost of the contract (e.g. "$158 if cancelled within the first month")

3) Typical evening speed (e.g. "48 Mbit between 7pm and 11pm" on a 50Mbit plan), which will change depending on which address you enter and thus which technology option you get (namely, if you are on FTTN you will see lower typical speeds reported than a FTTH address, especially for higher speed plans)

This was introduced specifically in response to this issue, where peak-hours congestion was a common complaint amongst consumers.

ISPs are also increasingly publishing their CVC graphs for each point of interconnect. This lets you see a historical utilisation of the network.

[1]: https://www.telstra.com.au/internet/nbn as an example

In the U.K. we actually have had these kinds of cases go to court and as a result those charges have to be presented clearly before the user has signed the contract. Some places even make you sign that specific clause to evidence that you’ve understood it. So there’s no chance of anyone engaging in a contract with termination charges without them understanding what those charges will be.

Of course, if there is no real reason to break the lease. E.g. if you're moving to a different city for work or starting to study.

Further, if something is advertised as XX Eur/mo it's implied it's a month-by-month thing. Situations you described are very very clearly marked as being a contract with a start and an end date as well as a total including any and all fees as well as cancelation terms. You can't hide essential terms deep within a several page legalese document.

The first word of the product name is "Annual". If someone proceeds to buy an "Annual" product with a lower price and doesn't bother to understand the meaning of why it's "Annual", I have no sympathy for that guy. I am on the same plan myself, it was very clear to me what they were trying to sell.

3 options, 1 yearly, 2nd yearly with monthly payment and third pure monthly. I did not have to read any long contracts to understand this.

If people don't do due diligence of 5 mins to find what is going on, it's on them..

This is what dark patterns rely on, why the hell would you be in support of companies taking advantage of people? Have you never had anything like this happen to you? Maybe you were tired or in a rush and a dark pattern ended up costing you money you didn't intend to spend? It's happened to me, and I'd dare day most people reading this.

I use this product and this plan. I knew what I was getting into when I bought it.

Scammy companies shouldn't be protected, but if people don't bother to do the most basic due diligence before buying products, it's on them - like forget reading a terms of service. He doesn't even read the product name or description. Gets into a yearly contract for a cheaper price and then complains about the cancellation fees.

At some point either people have to take personal responsibility or should have other adults buy things for them if they don't know what they are doing.

Why, though? What's the downside of allowing people not to be vigilant all the time? Presumably, all that businesses would lose out on is getting paid for not providing value to someone, which doesn't seem like it would stimulate a healthy market?

In this world there are people with less experience or understanding. There are people who have varying levels of cognitive or sensory ability. And there are people who are simply tricked by a company that does everything it legally can to fool them.

To suggest they either deserve to be tricked or shouldn’t be able to buy things themselves is revolting.

So you're in favour of people phone-scamming the elderly? They just need to take personal responsibility and do their due diligence, right? Or do you want to take away the ability to buy things of people you deem incompetent?

It is a basic necessity for beneficial trade to occur that the terms are made clear, not just technically available, to the people potentially wanting to undertake that trade, before anything legally binding occurs. The issue is not that there are cancellation fees, it's that they are not made clear.

The exaggerated, but still representative, example might be the Earth demolition plans in Hitchhiker's Guide, which were "available for 50 years in the local planning office in Alpha Centauri." Totally fair, right? Anyone could have just gone there and read them.

Demanding "personal responsibility" as a solution to avoid bad deals is the same as accepting that it's OK for some people to be scammed. No one is perfectly on guard all the time. If it is permissible for companies to engage in scammy behaviour, and scammy behaviour increases profits, then in order to be competitive, companies will engage in scammy behaviour. So it will be everywhere. Since, as noted, individual humans aren't perfect all the time, eventually someone will get scammed.

The obvious, morally superior, and more economically beneficial solution is simply to not allow scamming to be profitable. That, among other things, means ruling in favour of the consumer when companies perform shady practices.

Postscript: People with this kind of "libertarian" stance really annoy me. To give the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume that "personal responsibility" isn't just thinly veiled personal exceptionalist elitism. If that's the case, the only reason you can even have these beliefs is because you take so much about the modern world for granted. There is a lot going on in order to create an environment where mutually beneficial trade can happen.

In the absence of strict, neutral enforcement of fair trading rules, people scam the shit out of each other. It's way easier, and more profitable, than actually creating something of value that people want to buy. The total effect of this, if it were allowed to occur, is that it creates an environment of distrust and uncertainty, which means mutually beneficial trades that would otherwise happen won't happen, making everyone poorer. Advocating for "personal responsibility" as a solution to avoiding scummy business practices is directly advocating for this situation.

Historically, before commercial law was explicitly codified, the means of ensuring that merchants were trustworthy was essentially reputation. The way this scaled was with merchant groups, where the reputation of one member going bad affected them all, so they all had incentive to police each other (or alternatively, collude). Plus the fact that people in general were much less dependent on markets for necessary goods, the labour force being mainly agricultural. However, this made opportunity for trade highly exclusive, and largely only available to the privileged ("merchant class").

I guess my question for you is, do you want to have to read every single EULA, thoroughly scan the terms of every transaction every time you buy something, and otherwise do a lot of work and research any time you have to make some vaguely commercial agreement to avoid getting into an agreement you, in retrospect, didn't want? If not, I suggest you carefully re-examine your beliefs and what they imply.

A final remark. The economics of scamming are highly asymmetrical. If individuals have to do a lot of due diligence even for routine transactions, that is a massive cost to that individual. In contrast, organisations willing to partake in scummy behaviour can spend almost endless resources optimising their ability to ensnare customers, because once the process is developed, the marginal cost is very low if not zero. So individuals cannot be expected to "keep up" in this environment.

The exact same thing (monthly fee, 12 or 24 month contract) is very common in Germany for mobile phone and home internet plans.

The complaint here isn't that there is a contract; it's that the user is deceived by dark patterns into thinking they've entered a plan with no contract.

By contrast, going to tmobile.de or blau.de, even without speaking German it's extremely clear that prices are based on 24-month contracts. Never is the monthly price mentioned without a clear label below it indicating 24 month terms. Blau even takes it a step further and places the text twice in the box, once in the UI and another time directly below the price.

True but this would indeed be considered very unusual and surprising for software if it wasn't indicated explicitly.

I just checked and while they do only indicate "X €/month" on the product page, as soon as you enter the checkout process it says "yearly subscription, monthly payment - Y €/month" with the additional options "yearly subscription, advance payment - X €/year" and "monthly subscription - Z €/month". I'm not sure how they're getting away with the misleading prices on the product pages tho (usually there's at least an asterisk indicating this comes with additional conditions and obligations).

That's what I was thinking. If you want to get out of a contract early, you'll usually lose some money. That's true for rent, public transit passes, and many other types of subscription.

If there are no consequences for bailing out of a contract, it makes them rather pointless.

But then there's always some kind of a cool down period, i.e. a time during which one can cancel a subscription without penalties.

At least this is how I expect things to work here, in the UK.

There's a 14 day cancellation period after you sign certain contracts, but I don't know the details.

Beyond that, a contract is a contract.

American here. Adobe's actions are indefensible.

> You're getting lots of replies from (I presume) Americans, who are used to much scammier business behavior than what I know from Germany and you describe in Australia.

Berlin‘s public transport company has the exact condition in their terms of service.

> https://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/streit-ueber-monatskarten...

(„ Zudem sei eine Kündigung für Abonnenten unattraktiv, da sich für die schon genutzten Monate nachträglich der Preis erhöhe, hieß es.“)

It‘s definitely not a scam or rip-off, just a case of someone not reading the contract before signing it.

To me this is a very intuitive presentation of pricing, so not sure what you are referring to as a dark pattern. There are three clearly laid-out options:

1. No contract, pay monthly

2. Annual contract, pay monthly (cheaper than 1)

3. Annual contract, pay in one go (cheaper than 1 & 2)

You pick one of the three options and check out. Where exactly is the confusion?

The first screenshot in the comment you're replying to says the price is "$52.99/mo". A reasonable person would look at that and conclude that if they purchased the product for 1 month, they would pay $52.99. But it seems (from the other, subsequent screenshots) that the actual cost Adobe would charge is $635.88. (That $52.99/mo, for a year.)

It is only on subsequent screens that the bait and switch becomes visible. A customer should not have to pay attention at each screen to ensure such a bait and switch does not occur.

Automobile leases, apartments, and the like are listed with monthly rates, but your commitment to pay is longer than one month. What's the difference?

Here in Australia you need to list the minimum contract term too. So if you're listing for $x/mo but require 1 year lease - the listing will say 1 year lease (unless it's been data-scraped by a Real Estate website and relisted for referral fees, but they end up in trouble all the time for this).

Phone plans for instance will have monthly with "minimum amount owed" underneath so even phone plans advertised for $20/mo will say something like "minimum owed $720" because people kept advertising shady 3-year contract plans with steep cancellation fees.

An apartment (at least in the US) is well understood to be a yearly lease. Software purchasing not. Similar software may be priced monthly, annually, everything upfront, or even free. If you put a price and list it as monthly and neglect to mention anywhere that it requires a year agreement, then it's an obvious dark pattern. You know it is because they easily could add "annual contract required" underneath, like most others do when they show annual pricing as a monthly rate (IME).

In other countries you don't need the "well understood" part, it's all up front info.

When you lease an apartment or a car, the monthly rate stated is usually the actual month-to-month cost. They don't demand a full year in advance to get the stated cost, or increase the monthly cost because you didn't pay for a year upfront.

That's why this pricing feels dishonest, even if it's technically true. Other companies handle it much more fairly. If you want to subscribe to World of Warcraft, Blizzard makes it clear that it's $15 per month. With discounts offered if you pay for 6 months at a time. That type of pricing feels honest, with a reward for paying for multiple months. Makes the customer feel better than Adobe's presentation, even though it's essentially the same type of pricing scheme as Adobe.

> They don't demand a full year in advance to get the stated cost, or increase the monthly cost because you didn't pay for a year upfront.

In my experience, typical apartment leases are offered on a 12 month basis. Month to month is usually substantially more expensive.

If you break a 12 month lease early, you're legally on the hook for whatever the contract specifies (typically the entire year in my experience). Most landlords will "generously" agree to let you out of the lease for the equivalent of a couple monthly installments though (again, just my personal experience).

I've personally never heard of a case where you'd pay out the year's lease. Usually you just forfeit a portion of your deposit, which half a month's rent or so, in Canada at least.

I had that once, in an apartment I rented in the US (TX). If you broke the lease early, you were on the hook for the remainder of the lease, UNTIL the apartment was rented again. This was called "rent acceleration" as I remember it. This was also ~25 years ago so maybe it is different now, but it definitely existed and I was subject to it.

At the time I bought a house so I broke the lease to move in. Fortunately, the apartment rented within the month so I didn't owe additional fees.

Out of curiosity I googled "rent acceleration" and see it is a hot topic now - mostly with commercial real estate and businesses break their leases due to the impact of covid on them. See https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/what-landlords-need-to-kno... for a summary. Also interesting is some US states make residential leases exempt from rent acceleration.

I think that's the typical outcome in the end. I've never actually heard of anyone being charged the full amount (not that I would have any way of knowing though). Also sometimes local law will place an upper limit on the size of the fee.

Several of my past leases specified that if broken I would be responsible for monthly rent on a prorated basis until a new tenant moved in.

In my current province, it's regulated that after the first year's lease is up, it defaults on an ongoing basis to a month-to-month agreement, whereby only a month's notice is required and that's it, unless you explicitly agree to another term lease. That's what I'm on now. Our deposit is the regulated max of half a month's rent.

In Poland if you signed a contract for a set period of time and there is no clause about breaking the contract early, you are on the hook for the entire duration of the contract.

For rent specifically, you can arrange to have a mutual agreement with the landlord if you for example find a new tenant, but by law the landlord does not have to accept anything.

Some contract also have punitive clauses in it, saying that you can break the contract at any point with 1 months notice, but you have to pay 3 months' worth of rent.

Wow, I'm glad this isn't how it works where I live.

Ummm, leases definitely have variable terms depending on length and also have fees for exiting the contract early.

And even more so, I bet if you asked, they would give you a further discount for upfront payment (since it removes non-payment and early cancellation risk that’s priced in)

I guess I’m just unclear what you’re on about?

>And even more so, I bet if you asked, they would give you a further discount for upfront payment (since it removes non-payment and early cancellation risk that’s priced in)

Not a lawyer, but come from a family of bankruptcy lawyers. If your landlord went bankrupt after you pre-paid, it could get dicey. It's a risk, and probably a low probability of downside, but I encourage people to do more research if interested.

Mobile phone plans and car payments all display the total price here in Australia as well as the monthly payments.

I’ve never been in a lease where it would cost a whole year worth of rent to quit early. It just cost the deposit, which is usually 1 or 2 months worth of rent.

And this is understandable for renting an apartment. The landlord might not be able to find a suitable replacement immediately. The same logic doesn’t apply to Adobe.

> Automobile leases, apartments, and the like are listed with monthly rates

Where I live it it is illegal to display this without also including the total amount over the entire contract period.

It's not about the commitment, but the installments. Advertising "$52.99/mo" implies your will be paying exactly that amount, each month. But in reality, there is no option to pay $52.99 each month, you only have to option to pay $635.88 in one lump sum, or pay $79.49 each month.

That's scummy, and trying to apologize for such behaviour is scummy too.

Yeah, the US has become quite comfortable with disgusting advertising problems. It's normal to be a shady disingenuous company here, so what's the difference if Adobe is being shady and disingenuous too?

The dark pattern is the first page pretending it’s a $52/month rate when the actual monthly rate is priced much higher.

If they want to honestly advertise that price then it needs to say “billed monthly with annual contract.”

Or a minimum head-up time for cancellations that's not bound to some full year cycle. There are many established ways of adding friction to cancellations that wouldn't cause any outrage at all.

But if those ways weren't good enough for Adobe and they wanted to have it both ways, advertise "cancel any time" and but still have "(you can do that, but then you have to pay in advance for the remainder of the year to do so)" or something like that in the fine print then they deserve all the hatred. And maybe even lawsuits for deliberately misleading labeling, but they probably have a legal team tweaking that communication in each jurisdiction to the exact shade of dark grey containing enough white for discouraging lawsuits.

And I suspect that the pattern/scheme doesn't pay for itself at all, that it's just the unfortunate outcome of a bad compromise between one group in the company advocating for honest monthly and another group advocating for honest annual.

Absolutely. It's not a $52/month rate because it's not 52 dollars per month. The moment you click that buy button you're on the hook for $624.

IMO A less deceptive label would be $624, billed in monthly installments.

"Twelve easy payments"

It's only clear in 1 of the pictures I shared. That is on the "Plans and Details" page.

It's "clear enough" in the other. That is on the Buy Now page. The price is listed as annualized and the REAL monthly price is hidden from view under a drop-down. This is an acceptably deceptive UX practice for pricing. I can give some room for shitty tactics, this is it.

However - it's not clear at all in the first picture I shared. This is the first page and the main page people will see when deciding which product to purchase. This is the main one I have a problem with. If they said it was an annual price, that would be acceptable. But they don't.

They lie.

How deceptive is it from 1-10, if the name of the product starts with the word "Annual".

It doesn't on the first page so that's a 9 and it does on the second page after click through so that's a 1.


That's exactly the dark pattern is - the convoluted pricing and terms. Also, not everybody is a uckin lawyer, that's another problem.

The customer has already been paying more than they'd have paid if they went for a long duration contract.

You are stretching the definition of convoluted. Offering discounts for signing a longer-term contract is standard practice in every industry. Don't need to be a lawyer to figure that out.

That's not what they're doing though - they're advertising a monthly price with no mention that it's actually a discounted price only available if you sign up for > 1 month.

Only explaining that in fine print once you get further along in the sign up process is the convoluted/dark pattern bit here.

There is no reason to give billion dollar companies with a staff of thousands of full time workers which have meetings in which professional designers meet with professional decision makers to approve of each step in a web store before it goes live the benefit of the doubt instead of the customer who spends 2 minutes in a web form.

If it looks dishonest it probably is. On this page https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/plans.html I see an entry for all apps. The description is like so.

All Apps


It has a big old buy now option that you are obviously supposed to click in place of the small text that says see plan and pricing details.

When you click buy now you are taken to what ought to be familiar to most people as a shopping cart pattern. On the entire left side is just a spot to put your email and a button designed to draw your attention below it that says continue to payment. Most people are going to read it from top down and not glance much at the item they have put in their cart.

If they do they may notice a drop down in the description of the item in their cart with black on grey text that says annual plan, paid monthly in the description of the item you are already buying where people are much less likely to attend to this detail.

If they click the drop down they may note the options but more likely we are already passed this screen and onto the next one.

If you put a nonsense email in and click proceed to payment you will notice, you know or not, text in 6 point font at the bottom.

In light text that on a 24" 1080p screen is 9 pixels high or about 0.098 inches tall

> By clicking "Agree and subscribe," you agree

In bold same size it says

> You will be charged US$52.99 (plus tax) monthly and at the end of your one-year term, your subscription will automatically renew monthly until you cancel (price subject to change). No annual commitment required after the first year. Cancel anytime via Adobe Account or Customer Support.

Now again in light text it says

> Cancel before Apr 26, 2021 to get a full refund and avoid a fee

If you had no economic interest and your job was to be as informative as possible you would allow the user to click the product which would take you to a product page wherein it would list 3 options with separate descriptions where you would add the desired item to the cart. This means that you would affirmatively choose that option instead of having the default in a drop down positioned so many wouldn't attend to it at all and you wouldn't mention the fee in tiny font on the payment screen. It would be fully specified in body text with a check box saying something to the effect. I acknowledge that if I cancel before the one year term I will be charged a fee of up to n dollars. If you check it you would be able to add the item to your cart and pay for it secure in that everyone knew what they are buying.

It doesn't work like this because deceiving people is good for business.

> It doesn't work like this because deceiving people is good for business.

I think it is a bit more nuanced than that. Business isn’t purely about making money, it is about exchange of value.

It doesn’t work like that because people don’t think Adobe products provide the value Adobe wants to charge for.

If adobe credibly believed that their annual plan for their products was worth what they’re charging, they would not hide the pricing.

So “it doesn’t work like this because deceiving people is good for” _accumulating capital_.

This is happening a lot.

The Burning Man organization used a dark pattern to attempt to withhold ticket refunds last year.

The burning man org made refunds something you had to request, then sign in, and opt out again in or lose all of it.

They increased the minimum amount you could donate during the refund period and said the money was to “save” the event.

Then they turned around and applied for the max PPP loans. [1] https://www.burn.life/blog/interview-with-the-ceo-of-burning...

WinRed, a political organization in support of the former president, used a series of increasingly deceptive interface patterns that have provably awful publicly disclosed refund rates. They also used increasingly deceptive interface methods and emotional statements to sell the idea. [2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/03/us/politics/trump-donatio...

If anything Adobe should be regarded for only using deceptive financial practices and not trying to sell some sad story if we don’t give it to them.

Even if you bother to read the small print, it appears to be written to be deliberately misleading. Instead of positively saying that one enters an annual commitment, it only says that there is "No annual commitment required after the first year". "Cancel anytime" suggests you can stop your contract, not that you have the option to pre-pay the remaining months and forfeit your access.

Correct, it's misleading if you chose to ignore the words "after the first year".

If four words alone can change the entire meaning then I would say that is likely to mislead people.

I am sure you can agree they didn't do their best in making the nature of the contract as clear as possible here.

“No annual commitment required after the first year” does not logically imply that there is such a commitment for the first year.

If you can proceed to buy something and not even bother to read the first word of the product name, which is "Annual" -- you can't claim to be cheated.

But, it also says "Cancel anytime", then turns around and asks you to cancel 1 month before renewal.

It doesn't say ANYWHERE near the $52.99/mo that it's for a 1-year commitment.

It should be clearly stated next to that, and not in fine print or faded text or buried in a ToS.

False advertising at best.

I think they have to display the total price for the contract here in Australia, not just the monthly payments.

The dark pattern is that "pay monthly" is just an installment option for the annual contract.

It's not a subscription per month, and it's not marked as such.

I'd expect it to be different if I've already spent a year in or not.

Cancellation periods can be random and unattached to when you actually stopped using a service.

So are you going to report them to the ACCC?

They are also advertising their Lightroom cloud storage as a backup, but it does not meet the Macquarie Dictionary (Australian English) definition for backup.

I would if I was their customer.

I don't think you have to be a customer to put in a complaint about their advertising.

When you click the "buy" button it's made clear


Reminds me of car advertising. They don't show the full price of the lease. They show the monthly payments

Which, BTW, is illegal under most sane consumer protection laws, where the full price of the contract must always be shown. No annual price, no annual contract. Simple.

At the very least, if you are showing the instalment price, you have to show the number of instalments, and the fact that it is an instalment rather than a pay-as-you-go subscription.

You could certainly argue that describing the plan as $x paid monthly is outright false, when it should be "12 monthly instalments of $x".

It says one thing in the screen where you put the item effectively in your cart and another in the description of the item in your cart wherein its designed for people's eyeballs to hit the continue to payment before they attend to the fact that it says something different in the description of the item IN the cart.

It's beautifully criminal in design.

I'm not an american apologist by any means, and it is a dark pattern, but it is very clear at point of payment what you're paying, and what period it's for. The drop-down unexpanded clearly says "Annual Plan, paid monthly".

Yes it's a bait and switch, and adobe deserve to be called out on the bait and switch but thats not what this thread is about, it's about someone signing up to (clear at time of purchase) annual billing and wanting to cancel early.

There is a commitment drop-down that shows different prices for the same product. I think it's pretty clear. I hate dark patterns than any other guy on HN, but this is not even close.

I also initially thought I was in the wrong with the monthly but yearly. Thanks for screenshots

Look, if the "Annual" in the name is not clue enough for the person. They are just paying tax for not being able to read.

This is not 75th page on the user agreement, it's the first word in the product name he is trying to buy.

How is this a dark pattern? This seems pretty transparent to me.

You click see more details, it lists all 3 options, you hit next and it keeps the 3 options in a condensed list, but respects your selection.

"See more details" isn't the primary call to action --"buy now" is. If you click "buy now", you're taken to a page that doesn't show the three options side-by-side, and if you're not paying attention you could miss the new "annual plan" text that's been added.

I'm firmly in the "if you don't pay attention when purchasing something it's your own damn fault" camp.

I'm firmly in the "If your advertising materials are systematically designed to trick people, you should be in gaol" camp.

These are not necessarily mutually exclusive viewpoints.

How much deception are you ok with before it becomes an issue? Would it be ok if the second screen was also missing the "annual plan" text, and it only became visible on the payment-confirmation screen? What if was only visible in the fine print at the bottom of the page? Where do you draw the line?

> Is this really a cancellation fee

Their own site literally calls it a cancellation fee in the linked screenshot. People in the comments here are giving them the benefit of the doubt on everything else, so give their UX designers some credit that they labeled their own fee correctly.


But this is kind of a pedantic argument though. One of the big practical issues I see here (aside from whether or not people know they're signing up for a yearly commitment) is that Adobe wants to have its cake and eat it too on what an early cancellation means.

Typically if you buy a year's worth of service for something, you will get access to the service until your payment period runs out. At least in my experience. If you buy a year's worth of Amazon Prime and cancel early, you'll still have access until that year ends.

With Adobe, that's not the case. You pay an early cancellation fee (50% of each remaining month), and you still immediately lose access as soon as you cancel.

Which is pretty crappy deceptive customer service. It's pretty clear that what they want is for customers to not cancel out of sunk cost fallacy because the user is scared to "waste" the extra fee. And then they're hoping that by the end of the year the user will forget to cancel again.

Compare that with a company like Amazon, which (despite its many faults aggressively pushing Prime) will even refund you your Amazon Prime subscription if you cancel before you use any of its benefits or order anything from the site. And I don't think that's exceptional, a lot of companies have much better cancellation policies than what Adobe offers. You don't have to go to bat for them, the CC subscription terms are unusually bad for a tech service subscription.

Wow. If Amazon is being held up as a good example, things are truly bad. My only experience is with Audible, and it is way too difficult and obscure to figure out how to cancel your subscription. Although at least once you do they don't try to pull anything except give you a discount, I suppose.

Although that shouldn't be held up as a positive either. Where I am, it's literally illegal for utility companies to offer discounts or any other type of benefit to customers who wish to cancel or move to another provider. They aren't even allowed to contact you unsolicited after you have requested to cancel the service, as it could be interpreted as attempting to offer enticement to continue. Ending a subscription to a service should not be a difficult thing.

Amazon has tons of problems with how they push Prime including dark UX patterns. The entire industry could handle subscriptions better.

But you're right, it's a mark of how bad Adobe's policies are that the things I'm thinking about Amazon are that at least I didn't have to get onto an online chat and argue with a representative for 30 minutes. Amazon didn't act betrayed and snap me with a punitive fee to punish me for my disloyalty.

I'm not necessarily saying that the average tech subscription process is handled well just that Adobe is noticeably worse.

From the screenshot in the Tweet, it looks like cancelling incurs the fee and causes you to immediately lose access to the apps.

If it were merely making you pay what they were contractually owed for the remaining months of your current year, you should retain access to the apps for those remaining months too.

The cancellation fee is 50% of what you still owe on your contract.

Okay, then give me access for 50% of the remaining year. If I'm being charged money for a service, I should have a comparable level of access to that service.

paxys 22 days ago [flagged] [–]

You will have access to 100% of the service if you hold up your side of the contract you signed.

So it's kind of sounding like you agree with me that the fee is a punitive measure designed to punish people who leave early?

Adobe is the one that wrote the contract, if they added cancellation fees that are honestly pretty unusual for the software service/subscription field, then that's on them. Their hands aren't tied by the contract, they wrote the contract. It's their choice to charge people money for a service they no longer have access to.

But whatever, I'll extend yet another olive branch. I'll pay for the remainder of the year as long as I can cancel auto-renew immediately and put down in writing that I will not be charged for the next year. Not too surprisingly, Adobe also doesn't allow its customers to do that, because of course it doesn't.

It's obtuse to argue that all of this is about fairness and not about taking advantage of customer mistakes to bleed them dry for a service they don't want anymore. But I suppose it's just in my contract that I have to argue with a representative at a specific date and time in order to signal that I don't want to renew for another year of service. Nothing Adobe can do about that. /s

You mean if you stay on long enough to be automatically resubscribed for another year you don't want?

Exactly. It’s a contract. If you cancel it early, the other contract partner has the right to get a compensation fee.

That’s perfectly normal and also practised by other companies.

It's unusual for B2C subscription services to charge a cancelation fee and withhold access for the remainder of the period.

It's another mental obstacle for the customer to overcome on the sunken cost fallacy, it's slimey at best.

If you pay the fee and keep using the service, it's not a fee, it's a cancellation period.

You're equating contract terms with general reciprocity. Many, perhaps most other businesses pro-rate subscription services and understand that customers may need to cancel, if only because they don't want the sort of bad publicity Adobe is receiving right now. Tough contracts with significant breaching penalties are generally made between peers (two individuals or two businesses) rather than producers and consumers.

There is a doctrine of unconscionability in contract law that says just because you secure agreement to highly unfavorable terms doesn't mean the contract is beyond review of a court, if there is a significant asymmetry between the contract parties.

The issue is that it's not clear to consumers that the contract has a cancellation fee. See this screenshot, which alludes to a cancellation fee but doesn't explicitly say how large it is until you click into the fine print: https://i.imgur.com/5xTA7eC.png

Maybe businesses are savvy enough to read the fine print, but I think many normal consumers don't understand that there is a fee to cancel, given that it is not prominently shown. You can't just bury meaningful parts of a contract into terms and conditions.

It should be 100% of the months you have used that year. e.g. if non contract is $20 and contract is $10, and you used the service for 5 months you owe $50

So if you have used 10 months and want to cancel you should pay $100 instead of $10?

Distrokid did something like this to me also. I wanted to cancel one week after renewal to avoid being auto-billed the next time around, but it seemed to immediately remove our tracks from distribution, etc.

Is it really that clear? https://imgur.com/a/yQFQRKF

Right before hitting 'place order' there's a link to a pop-up modal with the cancellation terms.

> "Should you cancel after 14 days, you’ll be charged a lump sum amount of 50% of your remaining contract obligation and your service will continue until the end of that month’s billing period."

At no point is the total amount (aka, your contract obligation) displayed, just the monthly amount. I think it's deceptive, at best.

I see the total amount here


No, the total amount (your contractual obligation) in your screenshot would be $635.88 + taxes.


If you click the options you can see the prices. This is a common practice, I feel like there are people are really trying to make this a bigger deal than it is.

That's a different deal where you pay once upfront. A user shouldn't have to open a different deal to see how they'll pay for something else.

Either way, that still doesn't tell you explicitly what the cancellation fee would be.

In Australia there is a thing called a 'Critical Information Summary' required for phone/internet plans. This is an sample of one from an old plan with similar terms to Adobe's (monthly payment, 12 month contract): https://imgur.com/a/bBVuip2 . It states how much it'll cost if you stay for 12/24 months. It also states the maximum that'll you'll have to pay to cancel, and how the cancel fee decreases as you go.

This isn't hard... they could put it upfront, but they don't and it only benefits Adobe.

Also, you might want to check those prices in the screenshot you linked, none match the price you would actually pay over 12 months, or the minimum cancel fee.

Would be nice if it was required for all subscription services and not just phone/internet.

You mean its common for the description of the item on the product page to be different from the description in the cart in hopes most don't read, don't cancel, and don't complain?

That is not the total amount in dollars.

Digital products should be exempt from cancellation fees period. Adobe lost me at Lightroom 1. I bought it, and was happy for a year. They then got cute with subscriptions, and honestly overly complicated software.

I believe most product/services should not have late fees, or cancellation fees.

Every business I have ever worked at used them as steady income. In college I managed a mini storage. The owner told me he wanted me to go to a seminar. The whole seminar was about increasing late fees. Yes--literally tricks to getting tenants to forget the payment date. (If ever have to use a mini storage, prorate a month worth of rent so payment lands on the end of the month. When it lands, say on the 14th it's easy to forget.)

Adobe offers annual pricing that is cheaper than the monthly pricing. How do you suggest they avoid the cancellation fee for annual plans while still offering a discount? Would that not effectively turn their annual price into the de facto monthly price, if people could cancel at will with no repercussions?

Pay for the year up front like Dropbox and App Store subscriptions

That would de facto exclude a lot of people with a tight budget.

Just sayin.

Paying a multi-hundred-dollar cancellation fee or being unable to cancel is also really bad for people on a tight budget.

Yeppers. This is true.

It sucks to be poor.

But being bit in the ass later because something has changed and you want out will hurt a smaller percentage of people than a large upfront fee that makes it unattainable for many. That denies many people opportunity in the name of protecting some portion of those people from potential negative consequences.

I definitely prefer the decision of whether to sacrifice for an upfront cost than to be hit with an unexpected one.

Presumably one could outlaw discounts (defacto by guaranteeing cancelations at any point without any fee) like that and only permit annual rebates. So Adobe would charge you the same both ways but you get $x back if you fulfil a full year.

Canceling at will sounds great. Why should they be able to charge you for things you don't use?

Because they gave you a discount on that basis! How is it ethical to receive a discount from someone and then go back on your word?! They also offer a full price monthly option (ie no cancellation fee) if that's what you want.

The "cancellation fee" is because you are breaking a contract which you agreed to in order to receive a discount. If you are actually given a meaningful choice (which I feel quite strongly that you are in this case) and you can't be bothered to understand such a basic aspect of the choice being made, then I have absolutely no sympathy for you.

They gave a discount from a made-up price to another made-up price. The "contract" is a pure marketing fiction here. You can condescendingly explain what a contract is all you like, but the point of contracts is to reflect some underlying reality of the parties that needs mitigation so that they can have a mutually beneficial relationship.

For example, apartments are rented with an annual price and a monthly payment because a) both landlords and tenants have a lot of switchover costs, and b) tenants want to avoid landlords exploiting the pain of moving by jacking their rent up after a month.

But this is just exploitative marketing BS. When you sign up, Adobe is not buying a physical server that they have to depreciate and would sit empty when you quit. They did not buy extra buckets of pixels that will now sit unused in a warehouse. If a person stops using Photoshop, both the the provider expenses and the renter benefits cease immediately. There's no legitimate reason to charge people a cancellation fee here; it's pure exploitation of purchaser optimism and cognitive bias.

> The "cancellation fee" is because you are breaking a contract which you agreed to in order to receive a discount.

Exactly. And it’s perfectly legal and practiced by a lot of companies, even the public transport company in Berlin does that.

There seem to be a lot of people in this discussion on HN who seem very inexperienced in signing business contracts.

> There seem to be a lot of people in this discussion on HN who seem very inexperienced in signing business contracts.

But that would also be the case for most of the general public, no? Are you suggesting that people should have experience in signing business contracts (and contracts with a predatory company, at that) before it's considered safe for them to buy software?

It's also practised by almost every landlord. You can end your lease without the usual 3 month notice but expect to pay a fee or lose a month of rent.

Yes, that sort of thing is why people hate landlords, because they will often throw people out with much less notice than they demand. And there's a significant difference between the sort of landlord that owns a few buildings and can be negotiated with directly, and big corporate landlords that exploit their strategic advantage.

That's because you're putting the landlord to a lot of unexpected effort and expense which he was expecting to amortize over the full term of the lease. Are you saying something similar applies here?

If I cancel my lease, the penalty is one month's rent. It doesn't seem unusual to charge a cancellation fee. But for a company like Adobe, they don't have to find a new tenant to take your spot, as a landlord would. So the claim of the cancellation seems less legitimate.

That sounds generous. If I cancel my lease I have to pay 100% of the remaining balance.

FWIW, landlords often include unenforceable terms with respect to lease break fees [1]. This is a common pattern [2].

In my only experience with breaking a lease, my lawyer advised me to inform my landlord that I was aware of California state law, and then wait for them to negotiate. They initially counter-offered that I pay 2.5 months to break the lease, and ultimately agreed to 1 month. Probably harder to do during COVID, though, with such high vacancy rates.

[1]: https://caretaker.com/learn/breaking-a-lease-early/mitigatin...

[2]: https://academic.oup.com/jla/article/9/1/1/3852726

Maybe it depends on where. AFAIK you're obliged to pay the entire lease with a few exceptions that might help you get out earlier. One being a nice landlord (so not a law)


AFAIK what you linked to only says a landlord is required to try to find a new renter. In SF that's probably easy to find but any many places it could easily be several months all of which you'd be required to keep paying.

Agreed, my experience is CA-specific (though it also appears to be true in some other metros like Boston). The thing I was surprised about is that it's pretty normal for specifics in leases to not be legally enforceable, if not outright illegal.

Normally I'd have had a cordial discussion with my landlord, but in this case the landlord was a giant corporate REIT whose boilerplate lease was largely unenforceable (no doubt they know this, and have figured out that people assume leases are legally binding regardless of the terms).

This might be less true than you think but it all depends on local laws.

In Oregon, USA, for example, early termination fees can’t be more than 1.5 months rent. In most US jurisdictions landlords are required to mitigate their losses by finding a new tenant. Few courts will let a landlord twiddle their thumbs and collect much more than a few months rent if a tenant leaves early.

If you have to pay 100% of the remaining balance in order to cancel, then that simply means that there isn't really an option to cancel at all.

As an aside, you (paxys) are all over this post's comments defending Adobe vigorously. Do you possibly work for them?

Well you have a shitty lease.

Usually these companies offer two plans, a monthly and a yearly deal. The yearly deal is cheaper because in the long run they profit more. When you cancel early you essentially pay all of the discount you got per month back.

And that practice is perfectly common. Even public transport companies have the same in their TOS.

Try going to a shop, negotiate the price for a dozen of something. Get a discount on the price because you're buying 12 of them and then try to buy only 1 quantity of that product for the discounted price.

> AFAIK it's very clear on Adobe's page that your options are (1) Annual plan paid monthly, (2) Annual plan prepaid, and depending on the product (3) Monthly plan at usually 150% higher price.

No, it’s the opposite of very clear? It’s very misleading. They are purposefully avoiding printing the full sum they expect you to pay, just listing monthly prices without mentioning the terms, and a big “buy now” button.

I understand that you should never take anything related to pricing at face value, and I would certainly double check what I get myself into before I sign up, but calling it “very clear” just doesn’t add up.

It's not really obvious no, I personally made the same mistake. I thought I was subscribing to a monthly service, their UX intentionally makes it hard to understand what you're signing up for, after a few months I wanted to cancel but then found out I basically have to pay up a few hundreds and lose access to the service. It's not an "honest contract" because they make it difficult to understand

Last time I used Adobe products, it was advertised as 10 euros per month, but it was a complete lie. In actuality it was 120 euros per year, and if you wanted to cancel you would have to pay the rest of that contract.

I don't give any business to companies that simply lie to me. Trust is important. Adobe clearly doesn't care about creating any trust with its users.

There exists very little actual effort to let users know inside this payment funnel that they are not just paying 10 euros, but 120 euros.

The total price is not shown for the 12-month contract, as such it’s not compliant with Norwegian consumer law

Surprising to see a company like Adobe operate on such terms, although it also applies to companies like Audi on their EV charge subscriptions for access to Ionity

Here's the Norway page


Looks the same to me. Is it possible the law isn't what you think it is?

There shouldn't be an "Annual plan, paid monthly" option. Software vendors shouldn't be in the credit and loans business.

Pay monthly for monthly plans, and pay annually once for annual plans.

A single annual payment is a larger liability (for both parties) than the installment plan.

The way they show the prices is problematic. If 12 payments are expected, it should be reflected anywhere that price is shown. But I think it's fine if they are willing to offer a discount for agreeing to make 12 payments vs 1 payment.

Is this any different from AWS offering reserved instances? The pricing structure is the same: you pay by the month but commit to a year. Reserved instances seem perfectly fair to me: what's different here?

Context matters. Almost no pure software product has a cancellation fee. It's always a yearly cost or monthly where you can cancel anytime.

Some things like apartment leases are not only in a different context, but it's done for a clear reason. Reserved instances on AWS I'm assuming has a similar purpose but it's also in a different context and it's hopefully made very clear to the user.

I use this plan, I don't want to pay upfront and I am happy with the lower monthly payments.

This is what you do when you rent a house, 1 year contract monthly payments.

Feasible until you realize adobe auto renews contracts and uses a service to update expired cc with your new expiry date without any real consent or notification.

Not sure if you’ve been with Adobe for any period of time and then left, it hasn’t been pretty on multiple products for me.

Exactly. Even the public transport company in my city has a similar TOS.

If you have an annual subscription and cancel it early, they will charge you the elapsed months accordingly to the monthly fee, not the yearly one and I had to pay 150 Euros for early contract termination.

Whereas in the UK, cancelling an annual travelcard has at most a £10 administration fee and you get a refund based on when you cancelled (although since it's discounted to 10 months cost, you probably won't get anything after that.)


> Whereas in the UK, cancelling an annual travelcard has at most a £10 administration fee and you get a refund based on when you cancelled

So, how do they motivate people to buy the annual subscription when there is no monetary advantage for binding yourself yearly instead of monthly.

In Berlin, if you get an annual subscription instead of a monthly one, you will get two months for free.

And if you cancel early instead of waiting for the whole year, you pay the difference between the monthly and yearly subscription for the months already used.

I don't see anything scummy or illegal here.

> In Berlin, if you get an annual subscription instead of a monthly one, you will get two months for free.

Same in the UK - "it's discounted to 10 months cost"

Yeah, I was prepared to be outraged, but when I saw the pricing page I had to agree that it’s really, really obvious what you are signing up for.

Can‘t speak for the current page but some year (1 actually) I signed up for a monthly plan to extract some InDesign into SVG/PDF.

After I was done, I cancelled the plan and Adobe mailed me something like „sad to see you go here‘s a free month“.

What I didn‘t know and did not see ond the sign-up page was that I actually signed up for a YEARLY plan and I had to pay a huge cancellation fee. There was no indiciation or mentioning of a yearly contract (ok, maybe sonewhere deep down and so small nobody can read it).

IMHO, I was tricked into this yearly plan and had to pay much money to get out. It was the day I swore never to pay for Adobe products again.

I agree that sounds shitty. I’m not trying to say Adobe isn’t shady as hell, it’s just that the page mentioned in OP isn’t.

The problem is that an annual plan charged monthly is there to entice people to spend money they do not have. If the point is to encourage people to pay for an annual plan by offering a discount, they should ask for the money up front.

They do that too, for a steeper discount. The annual contract option is good for someone who wants to pay monthly (less cash out of pocket right now) and knows they'll be using the software for at least 12 months. I would be surprised if that's not the majority of Adobe's customers, who work in a field that requires their use of Adobe software.

Sorry, I meant to say that they should only ask for the money to be paid up front. The "less cash out of pocket right now and knows they'll be using the software for at least 12 months" is just another way of saying they are indebted to the company. I don't think that is the type of relationship a software company should have with customers.

Exactly. Why do you think it's lower for option 1?

Yearly commitment. Longer term commitments give you benefits in a lot of places and have checks in place to prevent people from gaming the system. Not very hard to understand.

Justified or not, I personally take a dim view of cancellation fees in general. Evidently i'm not alone either.

I'd say especially when it's not costing Adobe anything to cancel your subscription, it's just a money grab.

There are some exceptions where a fee is ok like when it's actually putting the business out financially, like Garmin & Iridium satellite service agreements, Garmin has little choice...but clearly not the case for Adobe

The whole idea of offering annual pricing is that the income stream is more consistent, so the price can be lower. It does hurt Adobe (not much relative to their income, but still some) to have that income not materialize.

If you're not happy with a cancellation fee, that's what the monthly pricing is for—you pay more month to month but can cancel any time. It's a very normal trade-off. The only real alternatives Adobe has to a cancellation fee are to only offer monthly pricing or forbid cancelling an annual contact at all.

The problem is not the pricing break for a longer contract, but that the yearly contract was promoted as a monthly price (with no minimum fee clearly shown). I'm sure the A/B testing showed higher takeup if they wrote it that way -- it seems cheaper!

It isn't true that this is the only option. Instead of onerous lock-in like a gym membership they could have a sliding scale -- the longer you pay for it, the cheaper it gets. Their decision to go for annual lock-in is short term thinking.

A fee is acceptable, if the consumer agrees to it, adobe wants people to pay their agreed on contract, but offer people a discount of 50% of their remaining obligation.

This seems pretty fair to me, when you signed up for the contract, those purchases figure into their operations.

Reverse the paradigm, if they cancelled providing you these services, would you expect a refund, or would it be a money grab to expect to get your money back when they violated the terms of the agreement?

Actually there is a cost.

If a user signs up for a year contract, the business has certainty of future income. The business gives a discount for assurance of that future revenue.

If the user cancels early, the cost is the lose of that future revenue on the balance sheet - and this does influence the business.

The cost is the users money. If the company got a customer at 53 dollars for 10 months that they would never have acquired at the higher $80 monthly rate and the user cancels they didn't lose the 270 they would have hypothetically received in the imaginary world where the user subscribed because maybe money isn't real. They profited the $530 they received less the cost of providing the service to the customer which is liable to be slight.

You can't lose other people's money you never received.

If I promise to pay you $100 for a job (and sign a contract saying so), you spend $50 of your own money in preparation for that job, and then I back out saying "that money was imaginary since I never actually paid you", are you not entitled to some compensation?

Why would you believe that adobe spent meaningful sums of money in preparation to service a license to run software on the users own hardware?

Legally, companies can do things like this. But I think it's a sure way to spread negative image, and never got those users again.

They should think and act as building services to help the users, rather than extracting money. Even though part of a business is extracting money.

Depends upon the jurisdiction. Under Australian legislation this is likely to be considered misleading and deceptive conduct toward retail consumers, and Adobe could be subject to significant financial restitution.

It's past time that consumers in the US realized their utter lack of power as individuals against corporations, and their collective might. The 'dark patterns' in online commerce, car loans, mobile payments etc are really 19th century business practices that shouldn't be accepted anymore.

> Depends upon the jurisdiction. Under Australian legislation this is likely to be considered misleading and deceptive conduct toward retail consumers, and Adobe could be subject to significant financial restitution.

I‘m pretty sure, it isn’t.

Go check the TOS of any public transport yearly subscription models and they will certainly have the exact same clause.

I had to pay a penalty fee for terminating my yearly public transport subscription in Berlin early.

It depends if it is judged to be deceptive conduct, so it is relevant how the information is presented. Burying conditions in the terms of service or contract, but then misleading people with other information on a web page, can mean that the preferential interpretation stands. Standard verbiage in the contract like 'this contract is the only terms of the contract' is just meaningless (except for specific categories like auctions and real estate, where other provisions may still apply, like the cool off period).

One example of the consumer law being applied is in regard to drip pricing, which was commonly used by airlines and hotels:

https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/online-shopping/drip-prici... https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/airbnb-and-edreams-giv...

Pricing rules, in this case Partial Pricing, are quite clear:

  If you promote a price that is only part of the total price, the total price must also be displayed at least as prominently as the partial price. This means customers should be able to identify the total price in the advertisement at least as easily as prices for any component parts.

Also relevant: subscription traps: https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-warns-consumers-t...

I am unfamiliar with consumer protection in DE, and publicly owned services like the railways may have special pricing legislation, but new EU harmonized laws are being introduced for digital services: https://www.linklaters.com/en/insights/blogs/productliabilit...

Sadly, the EU system prevents any member state from having stronger protections.

For subscriptions there are already strong rules about clearly indicating the total price, and the amount that is fair for early termination: https://www.osborneclarke.com/insights/distributing-games-in...

I think companies often get away with terms and condition. But if it's true (in Australia), it's a step up!

> If you didn't want to agree to pay by the year maybe you shouldn't have signed up for a year of service?

This whole thing sounds a lot like a loan. If Adobe wants to provide a loan then they should be regulated like a bank.

Otherwise a monthly fee isn't a loan, and a monthly fee shouldn't have a cancellation fee.

It's not a loan because you're not getting use of something before you've paid for it. You're paying for something as you use it, and getting a discount because you agreed you'd use it for a year.

You have to pay back the discount if you end up not using it for a year, as it should be.

> you're not getting use of something before you've paid for it

Except... that you are.

> You're paying for something as you use it, and getting a discount because you agreed you'd use it for a year.

So... you're getting the use of something before you've paid for the full year. That's a loan.

> Except... that you are.

Hmm, no, you're still not. You are paying for the months as you use them. You merely agreed you'd use the service for a certain amount of months in exchange for a discount.

Is paying rent on a year long contract is a loan? Is paying your monthly phone bill (which is on a 2 year contract) a loan? No. The phone company is not loaning you money. They're just providing the service at a certain rate contingent on an agreement to use it for a certain amount of time.

I don't think the way you are using the concept "loan" is how other people (and the dictionary) uses it. Agreeing to pay something in the future for services they will render in the future is not a loan.

> You are paying for the months as you use them.

If that were true then there wouldn't be a cancellation fee.

> You merely agreed you'd use the service for a certain amount of months in exchange for a discount.

That's disingenuous anti-consumer corporate bullshit.

> Is paying rent on a year long contract is a loan? Is paying your monthly phone bill (which is on a 2 year contract) a loan?

They both should be considered worse than loans. They're not only demanding that you pay all the money if you want out but they're also fully necessary in a modern tech society.

> Agreeing to pay something in the future for services they will render in the future is not a loan.

It is if you have to pay for those services even if you don't want them any more.

> If that were true then there wouldn't be a cancellation fee.

This isn't the gotcha you think it is. The cancellation fee does not cover the full amount owed for the remainder of the services, so clearly the existence of a (50%) cancellation fee indicates it is not a "loan" you are paying back. If it was a loan, you'd actually be on the hook for the whole thing.

> That's disingenuous anti-consumer corporate bullshit.

Could you elaborate? If you want an actual rolling monthly contract, that is an option too. The point of the yearly contract which you pay monthly is to allow for cheaper prices because you are guaranteeing a year of revenue. If you want maximum flexibility, pay monthly.

> They both should be considered worse than loans.

You realize contracts protect both sides, right? If you have a rolling monthly phone plan, the price can increase every month. If you agree to pay for a year, you get a locked-in price, the seller gets a guaranteed year of revenue, and everyone wins.

> It is if you have to pay for those services even if you don't want them any more.

As pointed out in point 1, you're not paying for the services so this argument is actually the opposite of what you want it to be.

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