The days of waiting on hold to cancel a streaming subscription might be numbered if the FTC gets its way.
The Federal Trade Commission has just proposed a “click to cancel” rule that would, among other things, bar companies from making consumers jump through hoops to cancel a recurring subscription, such as those from cable and streaming services.
The proposed “click to cancel” provision takes aim at those horror stories that everyone seems to have, where the “cancel subscription” button seems to be hidden behind a maze of URLs, or when you finally get a live person on the phone who proceeds to inundate you with last-minute offers if you stay.
Under the proposed rule, companies would be required to “make it as easy to cancel a subscription as it is to sign up for one,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan in a press release.
A proposed provision to the FTC’s existing Negative Option Rule from 1973, the click-to-cancel proposal would mandate that companies allow consumers to cancel their subscriptions using essentially the same steps they followed when they first signed up.
In other words, if you signed up for a streaming subscription through a few clicks on a website, you should be able to click your way to the “cancel subscription” button on the same site, and in the same number of clicks.
That means cable and streaming services that let you sign up with a click would be barred from making you call customer service to cancel, or from putting the “cancel” button behind an online chat window.
Also, you know the trick where a website or customer service rep pummels you with special offers before letting you cancel? Under the “click to cancel” proposal, a company would have to ask before hitting you up with last-minute deals–and if you say (or click) “no,” you must be presented with the cancel button immediately.
Finally, subscription services would have to give an annual reminder to those who’ve signed up for a “negative option” program before automatically resubscribing them. That would put an end to the practice of companies silently resubbing you in the hopes that you’ll forget to cancel.
While streaming services generally make it easy to cancel, that isn’t always the case. As recently as 2021, DirecTV Stream forced the majority of its users to call customer service or go into an online chat to cancel their subscriptions.
The FTC voted 3-1 to publish the proposed “click to cancel” provision, which will now go through a public comment period.