Buyer Beware: My Tangle with Subscription Services

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Source: https://ndigit.co/articles/building-subscription-service-drupal/

When was the last time you checked your bank statement? Seriously, when was the last time you thoroughly double checked that everything that was deducted from your account was correct, that your pay had gone in properly, or that there was no mystery transactions that didn’t quite add up?

Personally this is something, as a 22-year-old, that escaped me as a basic responsibility of being an ‘adult’, to thoroughly check bank accounts and statements for abnormalities on a week-to-week, month-to-month basis. 

Like most 22 year olds, my bank statements consist mostly of the abundance of subscriptions that I deem essential, such as Netflix, Spotify, Youtube Red, NBA Gametime and until recently Adobe Creative Cloud. ‘Until recently’ being the key words in that sentence.

My Story 

In March last year I was recommended by a tutor at university to fork out the $18.69 a month for the student subscription for ‘Adobe Creative Cloud’, to access the programs like Adobe Photoshop that formed a requirement of a photography class I was undertaking at Deakin University at the time. 

Now, just a quick side-note before I go on, the ’12 month’ contract with monthly payments was great and made it truly accessible on a university student’s budget, overall I couldn’t have been happier with the products that I used through the Creative Cloud during this period. Unfortunately it was events that took place after this 12 month contract had subsided that left a sour taste in my mouth. 

Cut to March this year, upon checking my bank account to see if a pay cheque had gone through, I discovered a charge for $43.99 from Adobe for a Creative Cloud subscription. Instantly I thought something was up, but thought that possibly it was an end-of-contract thing and left it be. It was only in early April when I received another charge for the same amount that I realised I was paying almost $45 a month (an increase of 235%) for a subscription I had not signed up for, nor needed or used.

Instantly I decided to cut my losses and cancel the subscription. I went to my account on the Adobe site and followed the prompts, eventually agreeing to opt out of my ‘contract’. It was at this point that I discovered the next kicker of the situation … that I would be charged an ‘early termination fee’ for the remaining 10 months of said contract, which added up to $219, five dollars less than the 12 month subscription had cost me for the entire year prior. 

Instantly i did some research about how this could have come about, and found some damning pieces of information scattered throughout forums and help pages. Many people had shared similar stories to mine, with varied success rates of appeals, refunds and a general consensus of having no idea that these contracts ‘auto-renewed’ and remained an annual contract.

This was confirmed on the Adobe website, in its terms and conditions of the student contracts, as shown below.

“Your contract will renew automatically, on your annual renewal date, until you cancel. Renewal rates are subject to change, but you will be notified of any change in your rate with the option to cancel in accordance with these terms. If you cancel within 14 days of your initial order, you’ll be fully refunded. Should you cancel after 14 days, you’ll be charged 50% of your remaining contract obligation and your service will continue until the end of that month’s billing period.” 

Now, I will happily take my part of the blame in this situation, and this is where others hopefully will learn from my mistake. Something our generation is definitely guilty of is signing up for content/contracts without reading the terms, fine print or any other piece of information we deem time consuming or irrelevant at the time. We rely on the fact that most subscription-based services that we have come to know and love do not fluctuate in price, deduct funds monthly, and are free to opt out of at any time. 

Unfortunately, as this video below from 2013 shows, some companies (Adobe being one) use subscriptions to ‘strong arm’ customers into staying with the company long term, with tactics such as cancellation fees or lengthy contracts manipulating people who depend on these products.

Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones able to obtain a refund for the subscription cancellation, and I thank Adobe for being understanding of my situation when I contacted it, but I worry about others who have not been as fortunate.

I can only urge consumers of all ages to use 10 minutes of spare time just to check their subscriptions, see if they are necessary and check that you are getting the best deal and are happy with the price and content provided … it could save your pockets in the long run.

 

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Patrick Gordon
22 year-old completing my final year of journalism at Deakin Burwood. Areas of interest and expertise revolve heavily around music and sport, whilst also dabbling in features and news based content. * Feel free to follow my instagram and twitter in the links below for more from me *

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