Disclaimer: The views or positions expressed below are my own and do not represent the views or positions of the Commissioner of Competition, the Competition Bureau of Canada, or the Government of Canada.
New York State legislature recently passed two consumer protection bills in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As subscription products and services are readily available online, there is a risk that consumers may face ongoing charges on their accounts without their consent. Passed in July 2020, Bill S01475A prohibits businesses from making an automatic renewal or a continuous service offer to consumers in New York. In these circumstances, businesses must provide "clear and conspicuous" disclosures, which includes several elements. First, businesses must clearly state that the subscription will continue until the consumer cancels. This includes providing details of the cancellation policy, and a costeffective, timely, and easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation (e.g. a toll-free number or email). Second, businesses must disclose that recurring charges will be made to the consumer's account, the payment method, any changes in charges that may take place, and the minimum purchase obligation. Third, if there is a free gift or a free trial, it requires a clear and conspicuous explanation of the price that will be charged after the trial ends and/or how it will change. Finally, consumers who accept an auto-renewal should be able to terminate it exclusively online.
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