How to cancel a subscription when a business is ghosting you

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published July 9, 2020 | 3 min read

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Subscription services or membership fees can be worthwhile if you’re constantly using a service, but what if, thanks to the pandemic, your local yoga studio or gym has been closed for months?

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to cancel a subscription, especially when a business has closed its doors. And not every business makes it simple. When it comes to subscription services, there are good and bad actors, said Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of “The Forever Transaction,” a book about how to run a subscription business.

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Good actors make it simple to cancel their service, she said. For example, Netflix recently announced it will automatically cancel any subscription that’s been dormant for one year.

“It’s incredibly bold for a company to say they don’t want zombie revenue,” said Baxter.

Some companies are bad actors that are deliberately making it harder to cancel, said Baxter. But there are also small businesses that never expected to close because of a pandemic and just don’t have the proper system to handle cancellations, she added.

If you’ve been having trouble getting a subscription canceled, here’s how you can take action and get your money back.

1. Reach out to them directly

There’s no reason to pay for a service you’re not using. The first step to cancel is just asking. If the physical location is closed, keep a paper trail of how often you attempted to go and cancel your subscription and at what times — the store may have varying hours. If the owners are good actors, it should end there. But bad actors will give you a runaround, said Baxter.

“If they give you a hard time, the next step is going to Twitter, or other social media sites, to call them out,” she said. “Tag them and say ‘hey, I’ve tried to cancel this service but you are billing me anyway and that’s not fair.’”

Companies don’t like being called out and in most cases will respond directly, she said.

2. Dispute the fee on your credit card

If you’re having trouble getting in contact with the company, you can dispute the fee with your credit company if you used a credit card for the payments, said Ira Rheingold, executive director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Credit card companies have the authority to cancel subscriptions but they’ll want to see you’ve tried to cancel on your own first, said Rheingold.

“If you save a copy of your (cancellation attempts), attach it to the dispute and the fee should be discontinued.”

3. Report bad actors to the Better Business Bureau

If you’re looking to call out a company without turning to social media, the Better Business Bureau has a vast database of consumer complaints against companies. If you file a complaint against a company, the BBB will investigate the claim, said Baxter.

You can also use it as a resource to determine if a company is a good or bad actor ahead of time based on the number of claims, she added. That way you can avoid a fight over canceling altogether.

Image: Nastia Kobzarenko