Category: Settlement

Dark Patterns: Auto-Renewal Traps

ABCMouse was recently punished by the FTC, to the tune of $10 million. They were fined for a variety of deceptive practices, including recurring charges to customer credit cards for membership renewals that were either not disclosed or difficult to terminate.

Auto-renewal traps are nothing new. ABCMouse is certainly a big name, but many other companies do business this way. They store your payment info and charge you periodically, even after you’ve stopped using the product. They sign you up for automatic payments, and create a confusing or complicated process for defeating that feature.

These dark patterns are widespread on the web, and I encounter them most commonly with antivirus companies and other software services. But to focus solely on auto-renewal traps, here’s what I can recommend:

  • Review your credit card statements every month, to catch unexpected charges.
  • Track down and disable any renewal options you don’t want, by logging in to your account at the relevant company website. Don’t remember your account password? Use the Forgot Password tool at that website to get logged in.
  • If using the website proves difficult, instead chat or call the company and ask for auto-renewal to be turned off. Expect that they will try to dissuade you. Repeat your request as often as you need to, don’t let them sidetrack you, but also don’t mistreat the agent. They are programmed to act in their way, and you should persist as you would against a stubborn computer.
  • When all else fails, or if you simply run short on patience or time, disconnect and then call your credit card company. Explain that you tried and failed to work with the company. Ask to dispute the renewal charge and they should promptly help you get your money back.

And if you feel any company is breaking the law or hurting people with their tactics, report it to the FTC.

The Google Plus Settlement

From 2011 to 2019, Google tried to get in on the social media craze with their Google+ platform. It never caught on, and the nail in its coffin was when it was shown that users’ information was not safeguarded well. Anyone with a Google+ profile may have had their PII revealed to 3rd-party developers.

If you had a Gmail account at that time, you had a Google+ profile. It was created for you automatically by Google! Hence, Google must invite anyone with a Gmail address to enter as a claimant in this class action lawsuit.

The payout will be $12 or less, per email address, and you can consider the details here:

https://www.googleplusdatalitigation.com/

Use the small SUBMIT A CLAIM button to fill out your info, if you want your share of the settlement. If you have multiple Gmails, you are welcome to submit the form again and again, for some or all of your addresses.

The Big iPhone Throttling Settlement

In 2017, Apple got in hot water for slowing down some of their iPhones. They did this for legitimate technology reasons, but because they didn’t disclose it properly, it looked really bad. Their lack of transparency made it seem like they were deliberately slowing their older phones, and many suspected it was done to drive new iPhone sales.

A class action lawsuit ensued, and it has finally come to a head. If you were affected by this iPhone issue (iPhones 6’s and 7’s with specific iOSes), you can stake your claim to your share of the settlement. Check out:

https://www.smartphoneperformancesettlement.com/

To sign up for your payment, you’ll probably use the Claim Form Online link to submit your info. Please know that you’ll either need your iPhone serial number, or you’ll have to use their special Search Tool, submitting your AppleID and other personal info. If you did not own a relevant iPhone, then you will probably not succeed in signing up for a payment!

It looks like claims must be submitted by 10/6/2020 so that they can wrap things up by December and start mailing out checks for the new year. If all goes well, you’ll get a whopping $25. Per qualifying iPhone.

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