A proposed class action alleges NFL Enterprises has taken advantage of “consumer inertia” by automatically converting Game Pass subscribers’ subscriptions to new NFL+ memberships without their knowledge or consent.
The 13-page case calls NFL Enterprises’ subscription practices “deceptive,” and alleges the promotional arm of the National Football League has designed the NFL+ cancellation process to strategically cut down on customer churn.
“The result is that Defendant can scientifically ensure that no more than a fixed percentage of users will successfully navigate the gauntlet of obstacles laid down in front of them if they decided to cancel,” the suit says. “These methods were successful in preventing Plaintiff from cancelling and getting his money back despite his significant efforts to this effect.”
According to the complaint, NFL Enterprises in July 2022 “autoconverted and autorenewed” consumers’ Game Pass subscriptions to a new service called NFL+, where subscribers can stream live game broadcasts and content from NFL Films and NFL Network for roughly $85 per year. Per the suit, former Game Pass, and now NFL+, subscribers were charged by NFL Enterprises for a year’s membership “all at once” for the new service.
The complaint argues that NFL Enterprises has essentially utilized “negative option” tactics whereby a customer’s silence, or non-rejection of services, amounts to acceptance.
“Researchers have labeled this phenomenon as ‘status quo bias,’ making consumers susceptible to ‘sludge,’ so that they are unlikely to depart from a default option, even where it would be in their interest to do so,” the filing says, noting that consumers “tend to procrastinate on mundane tasks,” including canceling subscriptions.
Upon learning that his Game Pass subscription was being converted into NFL+, the plaintiff, a Winter Garden, Florida resident, attempted to cancel and prevent his payment method from being charged, the lawsuit relays. The man claims, however, that NFL Enterprises “utilized sophisticated and manipulative design and interface practices to stymie Plaintiff’s attempts,” including through a link labeled “cancellation” that pulled up “unclear and non-intuitive” instructions the man “could not adequately navigate.”
The plaintiff removed his subscription and payment information from his account before deleting it entirely, believing that he had successfully canceled his subscription, the suit continues. Around August 24, 2022, however, NFL Enterprises charged the plaintiff’s PayPal account, even though he had removed this payment method from his account, the case claims.
“The only explanation for this charge is that Defendant failed to remove Plaintiff’s account and payment information from their back end systems,” the complaint contends. “Defendant retained the ability to charge him even though he specifically and successfully acted to prevent this.”
The lawsuit says the plaintiff was charged even though he lacked access to the account and service for which he was charged. The man claims that no support phone number existed for NFL+, and none of the help center topics addressed his issue. The consumer ended up calling the NFL shop to complain about his NFL+ membership, and was told by the representative that she had received “numerous similar calls” from customers seeking the same type of assistance but could not help.
The filing alleges that the artificial intelligence chatbots or email responders used by NFL Enterprises are unable to respond to customer requests with keywords such as “cancel” and “refund,” and that requests with these and similar keywords are given a lower priority with the hope that customers will give up their attempts to cancel.
The plaintiff claims that he received a response from an NFL Enterprises chatbot about 10 days after he sent a message describing how he canceled and deleted his account yet was still being charged. The chatbot “misunderstood Plaintiff’s request as inquiring how to access NFL+, despite his clear request to cancel his subscription and issuing [sic] him a refund,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiff ended up conversing with another NFL Enterprises representative who also “failed to understand the nature of his request,” the case claims. The plaintiff alleges the defendant’s intentionally slow responses are designed to frustrate consumers looking for refunds, or who have canceled their subscriptions.
The lawsuit looks to cover consumers in Florida, New York, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Alaska, Arkansas, Wyoming, West Virginia and Utah who subscribed to NFL+ during the applicable statute of limitations period.
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