On a roll: 68% of subscription customers want to have to opt in following their free trial
We've all done it. We're so desperate to see that movie, grab a piece of software or sample some tasty food that we sign up for a free subscription with the full intention of cancelling before it rolls over on to a paid subscription. The trouble is, we get caught up in life, lose track of time and forget to notify the company in time.
If you are a subscription business owner, you may be interested to learn that a sizeable majority of respondents to a recent YouGov survey said that they wanted companies to not only tell them when their free trial is about to end but to replace the automatic rollover with an opt in option.
Opting in is the popular option
The survey presented four scenarios and asked people to select which one they would prefer. The scenarios were:
- Companies should be allowed to sign you on for the rolling subscription when your free trial ends without needing to notify you again, as long as this was made clear in the terms and conditions.
- Companies should be allowed to sign you on for the rolling subscription when your free trial ends without needing to notify you again, as long as this was made clear when you signed up for the trial.
- Companies should be required to notify you that your free trial is over and that you will be signed up for the rolling subscription unless you opt out within a set period of time (e.g. 1 to 2 days).
- Companies should be required to notify you when your free trial is over and ask for an active opt-in (e.g. pressing a 'Confirm' button, or entering your payment details) before signing you on for the rolling subscription.
While only 5% of those asked opted for the first two options, 17% were happy to have to opt out as long as they were notified that their free trial was ending.
However, a whopping 68% of respondents wanted to both be notified and then have to actively opt in to continue their subscription.
The survey also revealed that UK residents lost around £800m per year in subscription fees they either forgot to cancel or were unable to cancel.
What does the law say?
Of course, from a subscription business owner's perspective, replacing an automatic rollover with an active opt-in is likely to reduce subscriptions, increase admin costs and affect cash flow and business planning. They may stress the fact that if the rollover and cancellation conditions are in the Ts and Cs, they are acting lawfully.
In reality, just because there is a contract in place, that doesn't make it a fair contract. The government provides some handy advice about ensuring customers are treated fairly. Examples of unfair treatment include:
- Not taking enough steps to inform customers of the rollover process and their cancellation rights.
- Setting excessively long notice periods.
- Imposing financial sanctions (e.g. cancellation fees) to keep customers tied in to a subscription.
Keeping customers sweet
While there is clearly a grey area of interpretation around terms such as 'taking enough steps' and 'excessively long,' it is worth bearing in mind that disputes over cancellations can not only be expensive but can harm a company's reputation too.
It seems clear from the YouGov survey how the Great British public want to be treated. It is ultimately up to subscription business owners how far they are prepared to go in meeting their demands.