FTC wants to make it easier for you to cancel subscriptions

If you can sign up online, you can cancel online.

Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

You might not have to go to great lengths to cancel subscriptions in the future. The Federal Trade Commission is proposing rule changes that would require providers to make it as easy to cancel subscriptions as it is to sign up, including through the same medium. If it only takes a few clicks to join an online fitness class, for instance, you should have the option to cancel online in just as many steps.

The proposal would also let you decline to hear pitches for additional offers when you want to cancel service. Providers would have to provide annual reminders of renewals for subscriptions to anything besides physical goods, the FTC says. Other rule updates would require clear explanations of what people are getting and bar misleading claims.

The FTC's effort would revise the Negative Option Rule from 1973, and would echo European Union policy on subscriptions. This will ideally prevent companies from either fooling customers into paying for services they don't want or are done using, commission Chair Lina Khan says. It's also meant to prevent the all-too-common tactic of forcing customers to call or visit a store in order to make the cancellation process difficult.

The proposal doesn't outline specific penalties for violations. It's not clear how effective the updated rules would be at deterring offenders. If implemented, though, the approach could make it easier to experiment with services. You could subscribe for a few months without worrying that you'll struggle to cancel your plan. Telecoms, meanwhile, might also have to let you leave without making last-ditch offers or asking you to talk to a shop clerk.