The New York Times Accused Of Violating California Subscription Renewal Law

On June 17, 2020, The New York Times Company (“The Times”) was hit with a federal class-action lawsuit over the manner in which it handles automatic subscription renewals. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York in the name of California resident, Maribel Moses, who is represented by noted plaintiff’s firm, Bursor & Fisher. The suit accuses The Times of automatically renewing online subscriptions and charging consumers’ credit cards in violation of a California automatic renewal law.

The California law requires online retailers to obtain affirmative consent, prior to purchase, of all automatic renewal terms. The terms must be fully disclosed in a clear and conspicuous manner and the retailer must provide an easy and efficient mechanism for consumers to cancel their subscriptions. According to the lawsuit, The Times’s website and app fall short of these requirements and make it exceedingly difficult to cancel subscriptions.

The lawsuit alleges that in May 2020, Moses attempted to cancel her subscription via e-mail but the publication automatically renewed her for another month and charged her PayPal account. According to her complaint, Moses “was unable to terminate her subscription due to Defendant’s confusing cancellation policy, the most crucial aspects of which were missing from the Checkout Page and acknowledgment e-mail. As a result, Ms. Moses remains subscribed to The New York Times today. Defendant’s disclosures fail to comply with the [California statute], which deems products provided in violation of the statute to be a gift to consumers.”

Bursor & Fisher seeks to certify a class and obtain recovery on behalf of all California subscribers whose online subscriptions to The New York Times were automatically renewed from June 2016 through June 2020.

TAKEAWAY: This newly filed lawsuit illustrates the risk faced by online retailers who profit from renewable subscription plans. If you are unsure whether your subscription plan runs afoul of automatic subscription renewal laws, we suggest you have the plan reviewed by a qualified attorney.

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