Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is calling on the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) to explore measures that may protect consumers from the automatic renewal fees associated with subscription-based services.
In a letter sent Tuesday to OFR Commissioner Russell Weigel, Patronis tasked the office to research and develop recommendations to address “negative option billing,” a system by which a consumer’s inaction is considered consent for renewal.
In a statement, Patronis criticized subscription companies that make service termination “suspiciously difficult” for consumers.
“Opting out of recurring billing should be easier, plain and simple,” Patronis said. “Floridians should not be given the runaround when it comes to these subscription-based service fees, which is why I’m calling on OFR to work with creditors to support consumers.”
In recent years, consumers have increasingly used subscription services for things such as television, music, video games and more.
And while subscription services undoubtedly provide useful benefits to users, Patronis asserted some use deceptive practices to lull consumers into “never-ending” contracts.
In the letter, Patronis noted the Federal Trade Commission’s recent settlement with MoviePass. The movie subscription company was accused of actively preventing subscribers from utilizing their membership benefits.
“Now more than ever, Floridians have turned to online streaming services but are left in the dark when it comes to terminating their service and ending the recurring fees from the subscription service,” Patronis said. “Consumers should be empowered to have complete control over their financial decisions and ensure they are not being taken advantage of by unscrupulous business tactics.”
The letter included some possible recommendations to improve consumer protections. Among them, he suggested a “one-stop shop” database that teaches consumers how to unsubscribe from popular subscription services.
He also suggested that credit card companies could create a subscription monitoring and cancellation service. In theory, the service would allow consumers to cut-off credit cards as form of payment.
A copy of the letter is available below: