Here’s a threat that may or may not make it to U.S. shores in a hurry, but probably should: Germany is planning to require cancellation mechanisms for consumer subscriptions.
That means D2C firms will have to provide “a contact form through which consumers must be enabled to cancel existing subscriptions with the click of only one further button,” the law firm Morrison & Foerster writes in a client alert picked up by JPSupra. The new rules take effect next July.
On an anecdotal level, consumers often get frustrated when they’ve locked themselves into something they can’t get out of. Scam artists are especially likely to make it impossible to unsubscribe from an ongoing, automatic debit.
Legitimate U.S. brands honor cancellation requests and make it as easy as possible for people to get out — all part of a good customer experience. That means email teams are tasked with creating triggered renewals, updates, and acknowledgements of cancellations.
The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers who want to get out of a contract to first “contact the company that runs the subscription you want to cancel. If the company has instructions on how to cancel, follow those.”
The proposed German rules — part of the country’s new Fair Consumer Contracts Act — require that online channels that offer subscriptions must prominently feature an omnipresent button labeled “Terminate contracts here.”
And, clicking on that button must lead “directly to a form” where the consumer can enter identifying information and specify the contract they want to terminate, the cause, the desired end date and an address to which an electronic receipt can be sent.
There’s more: “The provider will also have to immediately confirm the submission electronically to the address provided for such confirmation in the form.”
Morrison & Foerster adds: “Provided that sufficient data was entered, the submission will be a valid termination, which cannot be made dependent on further steps such as logins or second factor (e.g., email, app) confirmations.”
It’s not clear how this would affect signed agreements, or clearly stated obligations on the part of the consumer — as with cell phone contracts. Does this mean you can simply walk away? And there are other murky issues such as defining the terms.
In its headline, the law firm cites “German Exceptionalism for Subscription Terminations.” Maybe it’s not so exceptional.