The Service Agreement You Can’t Cancel

Easy to sign up, impossible to exit

Andy Spears


Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

It all sounds great.

The free trial.

The easy access to a service you need.

The chance to decide if you want it.

And the promise of no obligation and easy cancellation.

Then, the reality hits. You see a charge on your bank statement and realize you forgot to cancel that service you’re not using or don’t want anymore.

There’s no email address. The click-to-cancel button takes you to a page with a bunch of words and no easy answers.

You can’t find a phone number. The site says you MUST call to cancel, though.

If you don’t give up and DO find a number, you tell the representative you want to cancel.

They make a sales pitch.

You still want to cancel.

Then . . . it happens. The charge is on your bank statement AGAIN.

I’ve written before about the insidious nature of companies that create memberships that are basically impossible to cancel.

A pair of recent stories about a phone service and a short-term loan product reminded me of this persistent issue.

First, Vonage. The internet phone service made it super easy to sign up and manage. And super difficult to cancel.

Now, they’re paying $100 million to nearly 400,000 customers who were trapped in their subscription program.

The FTC notes that Vonage deliberately made canceling service difficult and in some cases, continued charging customers even after customers had explicitly asked to cancel the phone service.

Next, the short-term loan app Brigit — essentially, an app-based payday loan that claimed to offer “no interest” loans and “instant” cash advances.

The company will now pay $18 million in refunds because the “instant” advances…



Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .