A proposed class action alleges Vimeo automatically renews consumers’ subscription plans without first making certain disclosures required under California law.
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The 67-page lawsuit explains that consumers can access a broader range of features on the video-hosting and streaming platform by signing up for various subscription programs, including Vimeo Starter, Vimeo Standard and Vimeo Advanced. According to the case, Vimeo has violated California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) by automatically charging consumers fees for the renewal of their monthly or annual subscriptions without first obtaining their affirmative consent and clearly disclosing its auto-renewal terms and cancellation policy.
In an effort to maximize profits, Vimeo riddles its website with deceptive design tactics known as “dark patterns” that trick customers into signing up for recurring subscriptions that are “next to impossible” to cancel, the complaint claims.
“Vimeo’s use of dark patterns is so egregious that the company’s practices are consistently used as examples to help [User Experience] students and writers understand and explain dark patterns,” the filing contends. Indeed, the suit says the company has seen a “sharp decline” in subscriber satisfaction due to its unclear cancellation policies and confusing billing practices.
As the case tells it, Vimeo has run afoul of the ARL by failing to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose its auto-renewal offer terms before consumers purchase a subscription or begin a free trial that automatically converts to a paid subscription after seven days. For example, Vimeo’s checkout page only “vaguely” informs consumers that the subscription will continue until they cancel, and this information is presented in tiny, grey font without emphasis or distinction, the suit says.
Moreover, the complaint alleges that Vimeo fails to accurately and clearly notify consumers of the amount that they will be automatically charged each renewal period for their subscription and does not reveal the exact start and end date of their renewal term.
“If consumers are not on notice of the precise date that their Vimeo Subscriptions will renew and their Payment Methods will be charged each year or billing period, they cannot, as a practical matter, affect cancellation before that date,” the filing states.
In further violation of the ARL, Vimeo’s checkout page does not present a complete description of its cancellation policy, including information about how to cancel a subscription, when customers should cancel to avoid further charges for the subsequent period and policies regarding refunds and the consequences of cancellation, the lawsuit says.
The filing adds that Vimeo never requires consumers to read or affirmatively agree to any terms of service and therefore does not obtain their consent to automatically charge their credit or debit cards each month.
After consumers make their purchase, Vimeo’s follow-up email lacks certain disclosures required by the ARL, including its cancellation policy or a description of a “cost-effective, timely, and easy-to-use” mechanism for cancellation, the case contends. The complaint also argues that the company’s post-purchase email fails to adequately inform consumers of the length of the automatic renewal period, how much they will be charged and that the fees and service will continue until they cancel.
“Thus, Defendant has made the deliberate decision to charge Plaintiff and other similarly situated customers on a recurring basis, relying on consumer confusion and inertia to retain customers, combat consumer churn, and bolster its revenues,” the filing summarizes.
The lawsuit looks to cover anyone in California who, during the applicable statute of limitations period, incurred renewal fee(s) in connection with a paid Vimeo subscription.
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