A putative class action suit out of California alleges that Trusted Media Brands (TMB), which publishes Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home, and Reminisce, among other titles, illegally enrolled subscribers into automatic subscription renewal plans without meeting the requirements imposed by state law.
According to the case, the California Automatic Renewal Law requires companies to both furnish an agreement detailing the terms of any automatic renewal plan and obtain consent from customers before enrollment. The law forbids companies from:
Failing to present automatic renewal terms in a “clear and conspicuous” manner before a subscription is fulfilled;
Charging the customer for an automatic renewal without first obtaining “affirmative consent” to the agreement containing the automatic renewal terms; and
Failing to provide an acknowledgement that includes the automatic renewal terms, cancellation policy and information on how to cancel.
The case contends that TMB failed to provide its renewal terms in a clear and conspicuous manner yet enrolled customers in automatically renewing subscription plans anyway. The lead plaintiff in the suit, for instance, claims that he purchased a subscription to Reader’s Digest in October 2017 for $10 and received no notice detailing the magazine’s subscription renewal policy. The man then claims that his subscription was automatically renewed by the defendant in August 2018 without his authorization. As the plaintiff tells it, he was charged $15 to continue his subscription and later disputed this fee with the defendant. According to the case, TMB agreed to refund the $15 charge, but not the original $10.
Under the California Automatic Renewal Law, the case states, any goods a business sends to customers under an automatic agreement without first obtaining affirmative consent are considered “unconditional gifts.” Thus, the suit argues, consumers are allowed to “use or dispose of the same in any manner he or she sees fit without obligation whatsoever on the consumer’s part to the business.”