In a recent on-air report, NBC News spoke to attorney Robert Tauler about California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL). The impetus for the story was a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles law firm Tauler Smith LLP on behalf of a consumer who accused a casting company of automatically renewing his subscription to their service without notice or authorization. Many consumers find that it is incredibly difficult to cancel their subscriptions after they sign up for a service or make what they intended to be a one-time purchase online. Worse yet, a lot of companies will even go so far as to change the terms of the subscription and then renew it without informing the customer. The California Automatic Renewal Law, or ARL, makes it illegal for companies to use deceptive subscription methods. Under the ARL, a company that violates automatic subscription laws can be sued for $2,500 for each violation.
Click here to see the NBC Los Angeles report on subscription claims filed under California’s Automatic Renewal Law. To learn more about the ARL claims filed by Tauler Smith LLP, keep reading this blog.
NBC Los Angeles News Airs Report on ARL Claim Against Casting Company
NBC Los Angeles News recently aired a report on a lawsuit filed by Chris O’Brien, a Pasadena resident who is alleging that a casting website charged his credit card for a subscription renewal without permission. O’Brien is being represented by Tauler Smith LLP, a law firm which regularly represents consumers in automatic renewal claims filed in California courts and ARL claims filed in federal courts.
Casting Frontier is a talent agency that helps actors find auditions and casting calls through online searches on the company’s website. In a report on KNBC Channel 4, NBC Los Angeles detailed how Casting Frontier has been accused of charging customers’ credit cards and renewing annual memberships without authorization. In Chris O’Brien’s case, he didn’t realize that the talent agency had raised the cost of his membership until after they automatically renewed his online subscription. He told NBC News that he never received an email or any kind of notice from the casting website before the charges appeared on his credit card. The fee spike was noticeable because the membership cost went from $75 all the way up to $200, or more than double the original fee.
The NBCLA I-Team investigated the troubling allegations being made against Casting Frontier. The KNBC broadcast team later aired the results of the investigation and provided key details about the California Automatic Renewal Law (ARL), including information about how consumers can use the law to get substantial monetary compensation. If O’Brien wins his case against the casting company, he could be awarded $2,500 under the ARL.
How Consumers Can Get Compensated Under the California Automatic Renewal Law
The unfortunate reality is that Casting Frontier is far from the only company that has been accused of violating California’s automatic renewal laws. These days, it is common for people to use their cell phones and computers to quickly subscribe to different products and e-commerce services such as movie streaming platforms, music apps, food deliveries, and even pet supplies. A lot of these subscriptions renew automatically, which opens the door for unethical companies to use deceptive tactics on customers.
California has extremely strong consumer protection laws that explicitly prohibit companies that do business in the state from deceiving customers through fraud or false advertising. One of these consumer protection statutes is the Automatic Renewal Law (ARL), which imposes certain requirements on businesses that automatically renew subscriptions:
- The company must clearly and conspicuously disclose any auto-renewal offer terms.
- The company must obtain affirmative consent from consumers before charging their credit cards for an automatic renewal.
- The company must allow customers to easily cancel their subscriptions.
In fact, the California statute is so strong that it has become the model for all other state automatic renewal laws, as well as federal law on auto-renewing contracts. The California ARL, which is codified in Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17600, stipulates that consumers can’t be hit with new charges that they haven’t previously agreed to. This means that companies must inform consumers of exactly how much they will be charged for a subscription, as well as when those charges will be issued. The bottom line is that consumers must be made aware that a subscription will renew and that they are going to get a second charge.
California Auto-Renewal Task Force (CART)
The state of California has a task force dedicated to enforcing California’s Automatic Renewal Law. The California Auto-Renewal Task Force (CART) includes prosecutors from the district attorney’s offices in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clara County, and Santa Cruz County. CART has investigated dozens of companies over the years and imposed more than $16 million in fines against violators of both California state laws and federal laws.
Douglas Allen, an active member of CART, observed that many ARL violations are egregious, with companies intentionally making it difficult for customers to cancel subscriptions once they’ve signed up for a service. These companies count on customers allowing a subscription to auto-renew three or four times before they realize what’s happening.
ARL Statutory Damages
If your subscription was automatically renewed without your affirmative consent, you could be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive a minimum of $2,500 in statutory damages.
Consumers need to trust their gut when they think they might be dealing with a deceptive company. According to Los Angeles consumer protection lawyer Robert Tauler, “Anytime a consumer feels wrong about a situation or feels frustrated with a subscription service, that’s reason enough to know that something’s probably off.” Consumers who learn that they were billed for an automatically renewing subscription should speak with a California consumer fraud attorney immediately.
Contact the California Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP
The Los Angeles consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP represent plaintiffs in cases against companies that violate California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL). If you signed up for a monthly or annual subscription that automatically renewed, our experienced attorneys can help you file a civil suit and get restitution of your expenses and financial compensation for any harm or losses you suffered. Call 310-590-3927 or email us.