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Streaming Services Will Have to Send Reminder Before They Auto-Renew, Says New NY Law

Stephanie Sengwe

The new year is coming with an amended law to help out consumers in New York. Come February 2021, you won’t have to worry about being blindsided by subscription fees that come after a free trial or if you forget to cancel.

Under the new automatic renewal law (ARL), as described by Steptoe, the state of New York, like California, will now require businesses to “(a) clearly and conspicuously disclose the terms of the subscription to customers; (b) receive the customer’s ‘affirmative consent’ to the terms; and (c) provide an acknowledgment to customers that also includes the terms.”

That means businesses with automatic renewal programs, including streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max, have to layout their check-out pages in a way that gets the attention the customer as they are signing up (“text that stands out from the surrounding text”).

Services will also be required to send out an acknowledgement email that “includes the automatic renewal or continuous service offer terms, cancellation policy, and information regarding how to cancel.”

Unlike the California law though, the New York law now covers any renewing subscription with consumers. This means subscription services like Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu must notify customers at least 15 days before auto-renewing.

Now, when customers choose to sign up for a free trial or receive a gift subscription, it must specifically say “when and how much the customer will begin being charged, and how to cancel before incurring any charges.”

For customers who opt into automatic renewals but then later change their minds, the new law also has you covered as the it allows you to cancel your service exclusively online through “a termination email formatted and provided by the business that a consumer can send to the business without additional information.”

The law also allows the New York Attorney General “to seek an injunction, and permits courts to impose civil penalties of $100 per violation (or up to $500 per ‘knowing’ violation).” And if they violated? If a subscription service is found in violation of the law, your use of the service is considered an “unconditional gift” that you won’t have to pay for.