WW International, Inc. is on the receiving end of a proposed class action filed by a consumer who claims the weight loss company has engaged in an unlawful automatic renewal scheme for its Weight Watchers products and services.
According to the 57-page lawsuit out of New York, consumers who sign up for Weight Watchers weight loss, fitness and mindset programs have no choice but to enroll in an automatically renewing month-to-month or year-to-year subscription for which they are repeatedly charged if they fail to cancel at the end of each term.
The lawsuit alleges that WW International, however, has violated California’s Automatic Renewal Law by failing to provide statutory disclosures and obtain proper authorization before automatically charging consumers.
Per the complaint, consumers can use the defendant’s website or app to sign up for their choice of three fee-based membership programs—the “Digital” membership, which includes meal tracking, curated fitness and mindset content; the “Workshop” membership, which provides in-person wellness checks; and the “Coaching” program, which provides a personal coach to guide members through their goals and action plans. Because WW requires customers to provide their billing information upon signup, the defendant is able to charge members’ payment methods as soon as payments are due, typically on a monthly basis, the case explains.
As the suit tells it, WW has boosted its revenue by unilaterally charging customers renewal fees without their consent at the end of each subscription term knowing many members will be unaware of the recurring charge or unable to cancel their accounts.
“Thus,” the complaint reads, “Defendant has made the deliberate decision to bilk Plaintiff and other similarly situated customers on a monthly basis, relying on consumer confusion and inertia to retain customers, combat consumer churn, and bolster its revenues.”
The lawsuit argues that WW’s renewal fee practices have overstepped California’s Automatic Renewal Law in that the company has failed to present the automatic renewal offer terms “in a clear and conspicuous manner” and in visual proximity to the request for consent, has charged consumers without obtaining their affirmative consent, and has failed to provide an acknowledgment that includes the automatic renewal offer terms, cancellation policy and information regarding how to cancel in a manner that can be retained by the consumer.
For instance, the plaintiff says he signed up for a three-month “Digital” Weight Watchers membership in January 2018 but was not provided with the defendant’s automatic renewal offer terms before enrolling in the program, nor did he provide his affirmative consent to those terms. Moreover, the suit alleges, the email receipt for the plaintiff’s WW subscription did not contain the complete automatic renewal terms that applied to his offer, a description of the full cancellation policy and directions on how to cancel.
As a result, the case says, the plaintiff was not made aware of the fact that his WW subscription would automatically renew after the initial three-month period nor how he could cancel the membership to avoid being charged again.
Per the complaint, WW automatically renewed the plaintiff’s subscription in April 2018 by charging him the full standard monthly rate and subsequently charged his debit card an additional 17 times on a monthly basis. The plaintiff says the unauthorized charges amounted to $384.00.
Citing a slew of online consumer complaints, the lawsuit claims thousands of others have been harmed by WW’s automatic renewal practices. According to the suit, the defendant has employed a “widespread pattern of uniform unlawful conduct” in order to “lure and deceive millions of consumers into enrolling, and remaining enrolled, in their paid WW Subscription programs.”
The case alleges that because WW’s automatic renewal practices run afoul of California law, all products and services paid for by those affected are deemed “unconditional gifts.”
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