Vonage has agreed to a $100 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for making it difficult for customers to cancel service.
Vonage was one of the early VOIP providers and continues to be a significant force in the industry. Unfortunately, according to the FTC, Vonage made it nearly impossible for customers to cancel service with the company:
Who can forget the eerie admonition about Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like. But you can never leave.” It’s a feeling that may have been echoed by people who attempted to cancel their service with internet phone provider Vonage. In a $100 million settlement, the FTC alleges that Vonage thwarted the efforts of consumers and small businesses who to tried to cancel their service. It’s the latest action in the FTC’s ongoing battle against illegal hurdles, detours, roadblocks, and ruses often called “dark patterns.”
The FTC goes on to say that Vonage blocked all means of cancelling, save one, and then put roadblocks up to make that one means as hard to use as possible:
Vonage made it easy to sign up for its services, but blocked all but one method for cancellation. Vonage offered people a variety of ways to sign up – including through its website or by calling a toll-free number. But starting in 2017, Vonage gave people one way – and only one way – to cancel: by speaking to a live “retention agent” on the phone. When people asked to cancel via email or web chat, the FTC says Vonage was unyielding, telling customers that the company “will not accept cancellation via email, fax, SMS or other electronic methods.”
The settlement, the largest of its kind over canceling services, sends a clear signal that companies that make it hard for customers to cancel do so at their own peril.