The explosive growth of weight loss app Noom is fueled by what a proposed class action lawsuit alleges is a “deceptive and illegal” automatic renewal scheme that makes it next to impossible for consumers to cancel their subscriptions.
According to the case, those who sign up for Noom’s “risk-free” trial end up opted into “costly, auto-recurring plans” that they never intended to sign up for and have had difficulty finding their way out of.
To make matters worse, Noom hits new subscribers with up to six months’ worth of non-refundable fees on the very first day of enrollment, the lawsuit says, instead of levying the more typical monthly fee.
The 37-page, six-count complaint further claims Noom has used the global COVID-19 pandemic to its advantage by attempting to exploit its “zero cost” trial period, promising consumers during a time of unprecedented economic hardship and anxiety that the app can improve health and help find “structure and relief during this difficult time.”
“The Company’s concerted pattern of misrepresentations, smokescreens and omissions may benefit Noom’s bottom line, but it is unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent and has resulted in Noom’s unjust enrichment,” the suit alleges.
What Is Noom?
Not to be confused with Zoom, Noom is one of the fastest-growing weight loss programs in the world. With more than 50 million downloads, Noom, backed by a lineup of venture capitalists, has nearly quadrupled its annual revenue within the last year, according to the case, and aggressively markets itself on television, social media, online streaming and in print as a source of personalized coaching from easily accessible, qualified weight loss experts.
As the lawsuit tells it, however, consumers who are drawn to Noom's marketing are misled into believing trials of the program are risk free, can be canceled at any time and come with no commitment.
“None of this turned out to be true,” the case alleges.
Alleged non-disclosures and misrepresentations
In exchange for credit/debit card or PayPal information, Noom allows customers to try its weight loss coaching program “risk free” for two weeks at a cost ranging from $0 to $18.37, the lawsuit says. As soon as the trial period is over, however, Noom activates its auto-renewal program and begins assessing non-refundable membership fees, starting with a lump-sum advance charge of as much as $199.99 to cover six months’ worth of service, the case claims.
The issue, the plaintiff contests, is that Noom fails to obtain customers’ explicit consent before shackling them to its automatic renewal program. Similarly, Noom allegedly fails to adequately disclose—or actively misrepresents—“many material facts” with regard to the trial period and its overall service.
According to the complaint, Noom:
Fails to disclose to customers that its trial period automatically converts to an auto-recurring membership;
Misrepresents that customers will be able to cancel their enrollment by “simply letting their coach know”;
Fails to tell customers that regardless of whether they sign up for a trial period, they cannot access Noom’s service without an app-enabled smartphone;
Fails to disclose that though customers can sign up for a trial period on its website, the trial membership cannot be stopped from converting to an auto-renewal subscription unless they have a smartphone;
Fails to relay that automatic renewal will be triggered even if a customer never accesses Noom during the trial period or downloads the app;
Misrepresents that the trial period is “no risk” despite knowing many end up unwittingly enrolled into Noom’s auto-renewal program;
Fails to tell customers they will not be assigned a human coach during their trial period, but rather will interact with an automated computer bot;
Fails to disclose customers will not be able to cancel their trial memberships—or even contact Noom for any other reason—via email, mail, fax, phone or online;
Fails to inform customers the auto-renewing charge assessed immediately after the trial period ends is an advanced payment for multiple months of memberships; and
Fails to adequately disclose to customers that the advance charge assessed after the trial period is non-refundable.
“In short, Noom actively misrepresents and/or fails to accurately disclose the true characteristics of its trial period, its automatic enrollment policy, and the actual steps customers need to follow in attempting to cancel a 14-day trial and avoid automatic enrollment,” the case reads.
On the last day of a customer’s trial period, Noom, rather than adequately disclose its auto-renewal program is about to commence, sends a message relaying that it “won’t be checking in anymore,” which contributes further to a reasonable consumer’s misunderstanding that their relationship with the company is about to end, the lawsuit says.
The plaintiff claims that she, like other Noom customers, was misled into signing up for a trial membership while unaware it would be converted to an automatically renewing subscription. Further, the woman claims she believed she was paying for unlimited access to personalized fitness coaching that Noom did not provide and ended up paying “well in excess” of the $10 billing amount she authorized for a 14-day trial.
Apart from Noom’s apparent misrepresentation of its trial period and subscription service is the company’s alleged obfuscation of its actual weight loss services.
Whereas customers are promised “customized,” “personalized,” and “tailored” weight loss plans and support from Noom’s coaching team, proposed class members end up receiving messages that are “powered by artificial intelligence” and only accessible through the defendant’s smartphone app, according to the suit. Though the bot has a name and a picture icon of a human, it’s not a reachable person and interacts with users only through “impersonal, automated statements,” with user questions answered superficially or sometimes not at all, according to the case.
Many customers, including the plaintiff, do not even understand they’ve been assigned a coach, much less know who their coach is, according to the suit. Those who may reasonably expect to have personalized contact with a Noom coach via phone or email often “are left wondering how to use the program,” the case says.
Does the lawsuit say how to cancel my Noom subscription?
In order to cancel a Noom subscription, a customer must message the automated bot through the Noom app, the lawsuit says. The bot will then respond with system-generated messages directing a customer to cancel their membership and end their Noom subscription through the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. The case stresses that many who sign up for Noom’s 14-day trial period through the company’s website are unaware that their subscription and membership can only be canceled through this multi-step smartphone-based process.
“Having handed off responsibility for processing cancellations to outside companies iTunes and Google Play, Noom thus knows that its cancellation instructions—telling customers to simply let their coach know—are incorrect and misleading,” according to the suit.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The case looks to cover a class of all Noom customers in the United States—including customers of the companies to whom Noom is a successor—who were automatically enrolled into and charged at least a month’s membership at any time within the applicable statute of limitations period.
Similarly, the complaint aims to cover individualized state classes comprised of those who fit the same criteria.
How can I be a part of the lawsuit?
Generally, there’s nothing you need to do to be considered a part of a class action lawsuit. After a case is filed, it has a long way to go before the time comes to start identifying who might be a class member. If a case gets to that point, notice is typically sent to those who might be able to participate in a settlement. ClassAction.org will track the lawsuit as it winds through the legal system.
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