A proposed class action says that the amount Walmart Plus subscribers are told they will save on delivery and shipping fees comes with a crucial caveat that’s essentially hidden in fine print on the mega retailer’s website.
The 21-page lawsuit says that although Walmart Plus subscribers are told they can, for instance, “Save $800+ with free delivery” and “$500+ on shipping fees,” these benefits are “potentially illusory” because the purported savings, as Walmart discloses in the fine print, are compared against two deliveries per week at a non-member $7.95 fee and two Walmart.com orders under $35 per week at a non-member $6.99 shipping fee.
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According to the complaint, Walmart’s records show that the average customer does not place orders for two deliveries per week, or make two orders from Walmart.com for less than $35 per week.
More broadly, the suit alleges Walmart has “scientifically” designed the Walmart Plus subscription process to cut down on customer “churn,” or cancellations. This includes increasing the wait time for consumers who call to speak to a customer service representative, and using “negative option” tactics online as speed bumps for those looking to cancel their enrollment, the case claims.
Additionally, Walmart’s promotion of “[f]ree delivery from your store” and “$0 delivery fees” comes with fine print that reveals there is a $35 order minimum, subject to additional fees for express delivery, the filing says. Another limitation for Walmart Plus that consumers may be unaware of is that the retailer’s “free shipping” does not apply to “most Marketplace items,” the suit says.
Overall, the lawsuit alleges Walmart has sold more Walmart Plus subscriptions, and at higher prices, than it would have had it not falsely and misleadingly advertised the benefits of the service.
“The value of the Subscription that Plaintiff subscribed to was materially less than its value as represented by Defendant,” the complaint claims.
Per the case, the links on Walmart.com where a potential customer can begin a free 30-day Walmart Plus trial allow them to sign up for the trial without informing them of the delivery and shipping limitations. The check-out page where potential customers can select either an annual or monthly Walmart Plus plan also does not mention the limitations on the promised free shipping and delivery, according to the suit.
Further, some customers have reported being charged a monthly or annual fee immediately upon signing up for a Walmart Plus free trial, the lawsuit says. The filing relays that if a customer uses Walmart Plus during the free trial period and forgets to cancel before a particular date, they will be enrolled in the service via an automatically renewing subscription.
“Even when the trial does not result in an immediate charge, tethering a trial to enrollment in an auto-renewing subscription is deceptive and not ‘free’ because the customer cannot merely use the service during this period, and must remember to cancel before the end date, imposing a burden on their time and attention.”
The lawsuit alleges that in light of the foregoing, Walmart “takes advantage of consumer inertia” since autorenewal users are “seven times more likely” to continue using, or not cancel, a service, compared to those who enroll in an automatically canceling subscription.
Walmart also fails to provide pro-rated refunds to consumers depending on when they cancel their “free” trial, relative to where they’re at in the subscription term, the complaint alleges.
Consumers who attempt to cancel their subscriptions through their Walmart account are “overwhelmed by the numerous selections and settings,” and are not told plainly how to cancel, the suit contends.
According to the lawsuit, Walmart fails to separately notify customers prior to the end of their subscription term that if they do nothing, that is, fail to affirmatively cancel it, they will be charged again for the subscription.
“Defendant places barriers in front of members seeking to cancel in the form of screens asking whether they are sure they want to cancel and/or attempting to make them feel guilty for canceling,” the suit claims.
The case lastly alleges some Walmart Plus customers who’ve canceled their subscriptions continued to be charged due to “known internal errors” in Walmart’s billing system.
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons in Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Alaska, Arkansas, Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah who subscribed to Walmart Plus within the applicable statute of limitations period.
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Camp Lejeune residents now have the opportunity to claim compensation for harm suffered from contaminated water.