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Calif. Senate Bill Requires Online Cancellation Of Web Subscriptions

Garrett Heath / Flickr

Garrett Heath / Flickr

Subscription services that offer free or discounted trial periods would have to make it easier for consumers to cancel before their actual subscription starts, under a bill passed by the California State Senate Thursday.

This is pretty common: A business offers new customers a free one-month trial, but requires their credit cards, which will get automatically charged when the trial ends.

"The game that gets played," the bill's author, Democratic Senator Bob Hertzberg, told his colleagues, "I’ll bet you every member on this floor and their families have stories of these reoccurring charges that show up on your bills, and you need a sledgehammer to break them away."

Hertzberg’s bill would require companies to notify customers of impending charges a few days before their trials end.

Companies that allow online enrollment would also have to allow online cancellation of their subscriptions--not just by phone or email.

Business, technology and media groups argue current law has enough protections and this will just result in less trial offers for consumers.

"Consumers often prefer connecting with a live person to answer their questions and resolve their complaints," the technology trade group, TechNet, wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The bill dissuades companies from investing in effective customer service provided by capable human beings, ultimately costing jobs and frustrating customers."

The measure passed with bipartisan support and now moves to the Assembly.

Ben Bradford

Former State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covered California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio 

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