Efforts to Regulate Subscription Renewal Practices Should Recognize the Long-Standing Benefits of Consumer-Friendly Newspaper and Magazine Subscriptions
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and numerous state legislatures are considering proposals to restrict auto-renewal practices widely used by many subscription services, including news media publishers. The News/Media Alliance believes that proposals governing automatic renewals can both fully protect consumers, including their ability to easily cancel subscriptions while providing publishers with workable procedures to continue to provide subscribers access to their favorite newspapers and magazines with convenient, well-understood and easy to use options to continue the services they value.
Auto-renewing subscriptions are beneficial to both consumers and publishers, allowing consumers to seamlessly continue subscriptions and eliminating the need for publishers to send multiple renewal notices. Long-term newspaper and magazine subscribers don’t want their subscriptions to stop if they forget to return a renewal notice at the end of each term. Publishers want consistency in laws concerning automatic renewals and continuous services and ease of implementation.
Almost all publications provided by Alliance members are sold by subscription, and many are offered only on a recurring subscription basis. All Alliance members offer subscriptions that include automatic renewal features, and in some cases one hundred percent of a publication’s subscriptions automatically renew.
It is important that any proposals establish clear, workable requirements for paid subscriptions and align with other states renewal notification obligations in the absence of a national standard. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are long-term, and procedures are well-established and understood by consumers. Publishers’ subscription practices already are designed for ease of use and are consumer friendly. They incorporate several key components that ensure subscriber satisfaction. For example, consumers are provided a clear and prominent, up-front notice of the key terms and conditions for Automatic Renewal or Continuous Service programs.
Subscriptions incorporate explicit consumer consent to all material terms prior to any charges or payment processing. Following acceptance, publishers send new subscribers an acknowledgement that includes the offer terms, cancellation policy, and information regarding how to cancel – all in a manner that is capable of being retained by the consumer. Consumers can refer to an acknowledgement at any time they wish to reference how to easily cancel. If subscribers determine they no longer want to read the newspaper or magazine, publishers make it easy to cancel. The cancellation procedures include authentication of the subscriber to avoid possible cancellation mistakes.
The Alliance is actively engaged in ensuring full consumer protection with workable business solutions nationwide. The Alliance also has a Subscription Marketing Working Group. If you are interested in more information or joining the group, please contact Holly Lubart, News/Media Alliance Vice President, Government Affairs.