App automatic renewal "serial meter" is hard to guard against

The platform expires without reminding the option to close the hidden deep

  Investigate motivation

  Recently, Youku's "1 yuan member" refund event has aroused social concern.

On the pop-up advertisement of "1 yuan for the first month" that pops up on the homepage of Youku Video, there is a line of small words stating "1 yuan/month for the first month, 12 yuan/month for the next 11 months", which cannot be seen until you click on the recharge details page The words "if the service is less than 12 months old, the price difference will be paid at 25 yuan per month".

  This incident raised the issue of App automatic renewal again.

Many consumers call and say that they have more or less experienced "being automatically renewed". Some people want to try it but are automatically renewed, and some want to cancel the subscription operation but find the steps cumbersome.

  What are the routines for App automatic renewal?

Reporters conducted an investigation.

  □ Our reporter Zhao Li

  Another 35 yuan was deducted!

This is already the second fee for Beijing citizen Gu Xiaoran to be "automatically renewed" in 2023.

  When she first received the fee deduction notice, Gu Xiaoran didn't know why she was deducted. After some operations, she realized that it was a children's storytelling app she subscribed to that was quietly deducting fees.

In December last year, in order to help her children complete their homework, she planned to become a member of this app, but there were only options such as continuous monthly subscription, half-year card, annual card, and two-year card. In desperation, she chose continuous monthly subscription. She wanted to use It was closed after a period of time, but I couldn't find the option to close it and forgot about it. I didn't remember it until I was deducted twice this year.

  As more and more high-quality content on apps is only provided for members, many consumers have to choose to subscribe to app members, but in reality, there are not many people like Gu Xiaoran who are "automatically renewed".

  A number of consumers interviewed by reporters from the "Rule of Law Daily" reported that some apps did not issue relevant notices before automatic renewal, consumers just wanted to try it but were automatically renewed, and the cancellation of subscription operations was cumbersome and complicated.

  Buying an app membership is originally to get a better user experience, but why does it bring a series of troubles, and what are the pitfalls of automatic renewal?

Forgot to turn off the direct buckle

Many complaints about automatic renewal

  Listening to music on the way home from get off work and watching dramas to pass the time on weekends is a daily portrayal of many people.

But the songs and dramas that you want to listen to and the dramas you want to watch have to be a member, which makes people very distressed.

  "Several popular dramas are broadcast on different video platforms. If you want to follow them, you have to become a member. Once you start, you can open several." Peng Yuan, a Beijing citizen, told reporters that there was a drama about "time loop" that was very popular last year, and she I signed up as a member on a certain video platform, paid 20 yuan, and watched the show in one go.

  "The original price of membership is 30 yuan a month, and the continuous monthly subscription is 20 yuan a month, but the condition is that the subscription will be automatically renewed in the next month. I think the automatic renewal can be turned off at any time, so I opened the continuous monthly subscription to save 10 yuan." Peng Yuan said, At that time, I opened the membership and wanted to turn off the automatic renewal, but after searching for a long time, I couldn’t find the option to turn it off. up.

  Many people are faced with such a confusion: they forget to close the account after signing up, and the platform quietly renews the fee.

  In early February, Yu Lulu, a Beijing resident, discovered that the Apple Store deducted 198 yuan from her account.

"At first I thought the bank card had been stolen, but I realized it later. Not long ago, in order to take a vacation homework video for my child, I downloaded a video editing app and tried the VIP membership for free."

  The reporter entered the app and saw that the page prompted "3-day free trial, then 198 yuan/year", and a line of small words marked "the plan will be automatically extended until it is cancelled."

Yu Lulu was charged an annual membership fee of 198 yuan precisely because she tried the membership for free and did not cancel the automatic renewal.

"I always thought that it would be free for 3 days and that it would be well used. Consumers would only pay if they agreed to purchase. I didn't expect that the money would be deducted like this. Such an automatic renewal is too unreasonable."

  On February 3, on the consumer complaint platform "Black Cat Complaint", the reporter searched with the keyword "automatic renewal", and it showed that there were more than 100,000 complaint records.

The reporter sorted out nearly 200 complaints in January 2023 and found that the content of complaints about automatic renewals can be roughly divided into five categories, namely, family members mistakenly activate, the platform does not remind, the options are deeply concealed, the platform is good at making decisions, and customer service does not respond.

  The first category is mostly the elderly and children in the consumer’s home who subscribe to the app for automatic renewal due to improper operation or ignorance, and the consumer applies for a refund of the deducted amount on the complaint platform.

  The last four categories are related to the deduction method of the platform.

For example, some consumers said that some platforms automatically deduct fees one or several days in advance, and there was no SMS or other forms of reminders before that.

There are also some consumers who think that on the App page, the option to cancel the automatic renewal is too hidden, and they did not find the unsubscribe service according to the prompts.

Some consumers also reported that after automatic renewal is turned off, the platform still automatically deducts fees without permission, and the deducted amount of some applications even increases month by month.

Some consumers originally wanted to solve the problem through the App customer service, but after contacting to no avail or the customer service answering wrong questions, they finally chose to report the problem to the complaint platform.

  The reporter noticed that among the above-mentioned related complaints in January, only some complaints were displayed as "completed" after the negotiation between the merchant and the consumer, and many complaints were still "in process" or "to be assigned to the merchant".

Try Link Meter for free

Small print terms hidden mystery

  Recently, the reporter randomly investigated 50 common apps on the market, and found that the payment rules that are prone to controversy can be roughly divided into the following categories:

  In the first category, members do not have individual monthly subscriptions, but can only choose continuous monthly subscriptions or continuous annual subscriptions.

For example, members of a certain storytelling app do not have separate monthly subscriptions, but only continuous monthly subscriptions, semi-annual cards, and annual cards; There are two options for continuous monthly subscription.

  "Some apps only want to use it for one month, but the subscription option will automatically renew by default, and there are no other options. I feel that I have been sold by force." A netizen wrote on the complaint platform.

  The second category is the "serial meter" under the free trial membership.

For example, when a certain weather app opens the screen, it is marked with a prominent large character that can be used for a free 7-day trial membership. After clicking, the page will immediately jump to the Alipay agreement signing and payment interface, prompting "The merchant will automatically transfer from your Alipay every 12 months. Deduct 88 yuan from the account for renewal, which can be canceled at any time, and will not be automatically renewed after cancellation.”

After the reporter signed the contract, Alipay reminded that the deduction time was February 10, that is, 7 days after the service was opened.

If you need to close the service, you need to go to the third-party payment platform or use the subscription function of the mobile phone to jump through multiple steps to unsubscribe.

  "Renew the fee. Some apps use words such as 'free trial', '0 yuan activation', '1 cent experience × daily membership' to lure users into the pit, and the small print of canceling the renewal is unclear." Liu Xuan, a Beijing citizen, was once The free trial is "cracked" for 88 yuan. She saw a certain beauty camera app on her mobile phone that gave a reminder of "free 7-day experience", and at the same time marked "subscription will be automatically renewed" in small words, "I thought Clicking "Agree" only means to confirm the 7-day trial, which actually becomes an agreement to automatically renew when it expires."

  The reporter downloaded the Mouyan Camera App and saw that on the top-up member page, it reminded in eye-catching fonts that there is a free 7-day trial, and the bottom line reminded that it will be renewed at the original price of 88 yuan per year on a date 7 days later, until the subscription is cancelled.

However, when the reporter found out through a series of operations such as "Settings" - "Apple ID" - "Subscription" - "A Face Camera" on the Apple mobile phone, and then clicked "View All Plans", there is also a renewal monthly subscription of 9 yuan and a subscription of 3 months. 24 yuan, and there is even a first-time discount of 80 yuan for 1-year members.

Similarly, after the "Xiaoying" video editing app chooses a free trial, the user also "passively" chooses 198 yuan/year, but there are 13 membership options in the "view all plans", such as the 168 yuan/year gold member and Monthly card, quarterly card and other membership fees.

  In a certain camera app, after clicking "7-day free trial", there are three options of "continuous monthly subscription", "continuous yearly subscription" and "monthly subscription", but only "7-day free trial" is available under "continuous annual subscription". "Try and activate" option, the other two options can only be directly "subscribe now", not a free trial.

  In the third category, there is a large price gap between continuous monthly subscriptions and individual monthly subscriptions.

For example, for an English app, the price of a continuous monthly subscription is 12 yuan per month, while that of a single monthly card is 28 yuan, and the price difference is nearly 2.5 times; the monthly price of a certain kitchen app is 25 yuan, and the first month of continuous monthly subscription is 5 yuan.

  For the fourth category, the discount is relatively strong in the first month, and the original price will be charged for the next month.

Taking a sports and fitness application as an example, the ordinary monthly card membership is 25 yuan/month, and the first month of continuous monthly subscription is only 9 yuan.

After clicking this option, there is a line of small words below that shows "Automatically renew at 19 yuan/month when it expires, and can be canceled at any time".

If you don’t pay attention, users may ignore the small print prompts. When the app automatically deducts the original price in the next month, users will easily think that the merchant has over-deducted fees.

  In addition, the reporter's investigation found that the order of the options is very particular about how to choose "open membership".

Most of the Apps prioritize continuous monthly subscription, seasonal subscription, and annual subscription with preferential prices, and members who do not need automatic renewal are put at the end, and you need to carefully swipe the phone screen to find out.

There are many pitfalls in the format terms

Unsubscribe refund is not easy

  "Subscribing App members must not be impulsive, and they must find a time to operate when they are free and focused, so that they can see the various 'pitfalls' on the page." Some netizens on social platforms summed up the experience of "anti-automatic renewal routines", Over a million likes.

  "Into the pit" is easy, "out of the pit" is not easy.

Many consumers told reporters that the steps of the termination process are relatively complicated, in stark contrast to the one-click payment at the time of activation.

  Among the above-mentioned 50 apps with automatic renewal function, the reporter found almost no services that can be unsubscribed directly in the app with one click. They all need to find a level 4 or level 5 interface in the relevant channels of the mobile phone or on a third-party payment platform. , click the relevant button to complete the unsubscribe.

At the same time, some apps hide the unsubscribe method in an inconspicuous position on the page, making it difficult for consumers to find or see clearly.

The reporter saw densely packed small characters in the relevant terms of the continuous monthly subscription at the bottom of the above App membership order page, and it is generally impossible to enlarge the font.

  From May 1, 2021, the "Measures for the Supervision and Administration of Online Transactions" will come into effect. Article 18 of it stipulates that: If an online transaction operator provides services by means of automatic extension, automatic renewal, etc., it shall contact the consumer before the consumer accepts the service. 5 days before the date of extension, automatic renewal, etc., consumers should be reminded in a prominent way, and consumers can make their own choices; during the service period, consumers should be provided with obvious and convenient options to cancel or change at any time, and unreasonable fees should not be charged. cost.

  In addition, the reporter's investigation found that some apps do not automatically renew their subscriptions on the day when the membership expires, but silently renew their subscriptions in advance without reminders, making it too late for users to temporarily want to refund.

The reporter also checked some relevant terms of App membership service and found that although the terms described in detail the cancellation method of automatic renewal, not all Apps mentioned "remind consumers 5 days before the expiration of automatic renewal".

Among the above-mentioned software evaluated by the reporter, Jianying, Zhihu, etc. have a default SMS reminder service for deduction due in their relevant payment agreements or renewal terms, but in a certain flight, a certain weather and other apps, there is no note that there is a Terms for text message notifications or other reminders.

  Prior to this, the Shanghai Consumer Protection Committee also investigated the automatic renewal of App.

Among the 12 apps evaluated, the automatic renewal and deduction time node of most apps is set one day before the expiration date, and the deduction time node of a small number of apps is relatively vague, and some apps deduct fees 3 days in advance.

  Difficult to unsubscribe and even harder to refund.

On the "Black Cat Complaints" platform, the reporter saw many complaints from consumers demanding refunds from the platform.

"The monthly subscription fee is only a dozen to tens of yuan. I don't have the energy and patience to defend my rights and ask for a refund. The customer service will also practice Tai Chi, and there is no further action in the end." Liu Xuan told reporters.

  Many interviewed consumers deeply agree with this. Even if they find that their subscription has been automatically renewed, if they want to protect their rights, they have to pay extra for board and lodging expenses and travel expenses caused by litigation in different places, which makes it difficult to protect their rights.

  When the reporter checked the terms of some apps on automatic renewal, he also found that some platforms unilaterally stipulated the early deduction of fees in the form of standard terms, or stipulated that the deduction was irrevocable, and even designated a specific arbitration committee or a specific court of jurisdiction to resolve disputes.