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Subscribe to something online? California law requires businesses to let you cancel online

A new California online subscription law forces companies to give you an option to unsubscribe online. No more secret phone numbers!

Published onJuly 6, 2018

An image of the California flag on a white pole with blue sky behind it.
  • A new California online subscription law forces companies to give you an option to unsubscribe online.
  • The law states that however you sign up for a paid subscription, you must be able to unsubscribe in the same fashion.
  • Business will have to follow the law in California, which likely means they will change their policy nationwide.

We’ve all been there: you want to unsubscribe from a service, but to do so you need to call a phone number and speak to someone directly. Trouble is the phone number is nowhere to be found. Whatever, you’ll just figure it out tomorrow.

But you don’t, and then you get another charge. Damn! Where is that number?

If this hasn’t happened to you then consider yourself lucky. But for most of us, it’s happened at least once. However, a new California online subscription law is changing that. Specifically, it states that any subscription service must give the customer the option to unsubscribe in the same fashion that they initially subscribed.

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That means that if you start a subscription completely online, you must be able to also unsubscribe completely online.

California Senate Bill no. 313 went into effect July 1, and since it’s a state law it only applies to California residents. But if businesses have to create an online unsubscribe method for Californians, that means there will likely be one for everyone else as well. Unless, of course, the company figures out a way to only allow Californians to visit the unsubscribe page, which seems pretty unlikely.

To sweeten the deal even more, the law also states that the cancellation method must be disclosed before any payment is made. This alone is a terrific policy and will make everyone’s lives easier.

California is leading the way when it comes to enacting state laws that potentially could affect the rest of the U.S. The California Senate recently agreed to a strict Net Neutrality bill that is even more pro-consumer and pro-internet freedom than the previous federal statute. The bill was shot down by the State Assembly’s Communications Committee, but is now back on the docket after some revisions.

If that bill passes, it would be similar to this California online subscription law in that abiding by the law for Californians only would be more difficult than simply following the same rules for everyone in the nation. However, ISPs will likely sue to block the law if it passes.

NEXT: California Senate defies FCC ruling, passes its own Net Neutrality bill

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