A proposed class action alleges The Athletic has automatically renewed North Carolina customers’ monthly subscriptions without first providing requisite disclosures and receiving authorization to do so.
The 10-page case alleges the sports news website has run afoul of North Carolina law by unilaterally charging customers in the state renewal fees on a monthly or yearly basis without proper consent, as the publication is in possession of their payment information. The lawsuit says The Athletic, which boasts roughly 1.2 million subscribers nationwide, has made the “deliberate decision” to “bilk” North Carolina subscribers “on a repeat basis, relying on consumer confusion and inertia to retain customers, combat consumer churn, and bolster its revenues.”
Under North Carolina law, any party engaged in commerce that sells, leases or offers to sell or lease any products or services to a consumer pursuant to a contract, where the contract automatically renews unless the consumer chooses to cancel it, must disclose the automatic renewal clause clearly and conspicuously, the case states. The party must also disclose clearly and conspicuously how to cancel the contract within the initial contract or contract offer, or with delivery of the products or services, per the suit.
Moreover, for any automatic renewal exceeding 60 days, a party must provide written notice to the consumer by personal delivery, electronic mail or first-class mail at least 15 days but no earlier than 45 days before the date the contract is to be automatically renewed, the lawsuit says. If the terms of the contract change upon automatic renewal, this must also be disclosed clearly, conspicuously and in at least 12 point type and bold print, the case says.
The Athletic, the suit alleges, has failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose how to cancel a subscription in its initial contracts with subscribers and, for yearly subscriptions, failed to provide a written notice to consumers at least 15 days before a contract is to be renewed. As a result, the automatic renewals at issue in North Carolina are rendered void and unenforceable, the case contends.
The Athletic was recently purchased by the New York Times for around $550 million in cash, according to reports.
The proposed class action looks to cover all persons in North Carolina who, within the applicable statute of limitations period, up to and including the date of final judgment in the case, incurred a renewal fee in connection with The Athletic’s subscription offerings.
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