CONSUMER ALERT: The Attorney General’s consumer investigation shows that millions of Washingtonians may have accidentally signed up for a subscription service. | So Good News
AG Ferguson encourages Washingtonians to file complaints with his office if they have unknowingly signed up for a one-time purchase.
OLYMPIA – Attorney General Bob Ferguson released the results of a consumer survey revealing that 59% of Washingtonians may have accidentally signed up for a subscription plan or service when they thought they had made a one-time purchase, highlighting a problem that could affect millions of Washingtonians. The US Census Bureau estimates that more than 6 million adults live in Washington State. So, 59% represents 3.5 million Washingtonians. The respondents said that the confirmation boxes were the biggest problem.
The survey also shows that nearly 100,000 Washingtonians may not have been able to cancel the unnecessary registration because it was too difficult.
The Attorney General’s Office recently commissioned an online survey of 1,207 senior Washington consumers. The survey is part of the Attorney General’s Honest Fees Initiative.
Here are some of the highlights of the survey:
- 59% of the 1,207 people surveyed said that in the past four years they had unknowingly signed up for a subscription plan that paid them automatically when they thought they were making a one-time purchase. Among them:
- The majority (51%) cited a pre-ticked box as the reason they unknowingly signed up. 37% did not remember if the previously checked box was there. 12% reported that the previously checked box was not available.
- 63% reported that they had unknowingly signed up more than once.
- 2.75% said they did not unsubscribe because it was “too difficult to unsubscribe.” Multiplying the population, this represents 1.6% of the adult population, or about 100,000 Washingtonians who were unable to stop unwanted registration.
- Most of the respondents (70%) wrote that boxes that have already been printed should be banned.
- Washingtonian cited online retailers (29%) as the most common source of the problem, with Amazon being the company most cited by consumers.
Attorney General Ferguson is encouraging consumers to file a complaint with his office if they unknowingly register for a one-time purchase. The Attorney General’s Office responds to all consumer complaints. It handles about 24,000 complaints a year, and recovers about $18 million a year to consumers through its complaint resolution process, which involves working with businesses to resolve consumer complaints before investigation or litigation.
“The average consumer should always be alert. Retailers are constantly changing their strategies,” one respondent from southwest Washington said after the survey.
“This research shows that corporations are tricking Washingtonians into paying unnecessary subscriptions – and consumers want this practice to end,” Ferguson said. If you have registered anonymously, please contact my office so we can assist you.
“Before applying for a new registration, membership or trial opportunity, it’s important that consumers take the time to understand what they’re agreeing to,” said AARP State Director Marguerite Ro. “Reputable vendors will provide you with easy ways to set up, cancel or change your account. If these terms are difficult to find or understand, beware.”
Hardwick Research conducted its survey online from June 24 to July 7, and 1,207 senior Washington consumers responded to the survey. The survey included some of the following people:
- Respondents came from all over the region, mostly from the Puget Sound region at 57% and 43% from other parts of Washington state.
- Respondents were split between 50% women and 48% men.
- Respondents were split between age groups: nearly one third were between the ages of 18-34, one third were 35-55 and one third were 55 and over.
- The median household income of respondents was $76,500.
The Washington Attorney General serves the people and government of Washington. As the state’s largest legal agency, the Office of the Attorney General provides legal representation to every federal agency, board, and committee in Washington. In addition, the Office directly assists the public in enforcing consumer protection, human rights, and environmental protection laws. The office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexual abuse cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Go on www.atg.wa.gov for more information.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; [email protected]
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