The US government is suing Adobe over hidden contract changes and fees trapping customers

3D version of the Adobe logo
(Image credit: Adobe / Unsplash / Rubaitul Azad)

The US Department of Justice has filed a federal court complaint against software giant Adobe prompted by a referral from the Federal Trade Commission, the country’s body responsible for antitrust cases.

The complaint targets Adobe and two of its executives, SVP for Digital Media, Digital GTM and Sales Mininder Sawhney and Chief Business Officer for Digital Media David Wadhwani, accusing them of concealing fees and creating hurdles for consumers attempting to cancel their subscriptions.

The DOJ’s complaint criticizes Adobe for directing consumers towards its annual plans, which are paid monthly, by pre-selecting the option during the account creation process.

The US wants to sue Adobe

According to the complaint, crucial details such as the early termination fee for cancelling within the first year are hidden during the signup process. Other information, like the billing and renewal terms and the length of the subscription, are also said to be hidden. Instead, they’re said to be obscured behind icons or in small print on the website.

Consumers who cancel before their annual contract finished face a fee amounting to 50% of the remaining payments, potentially costing hundreds of dollars.

The complaint claims that Adobe’s tactics are not accidental, stating that the company knowingly complicates the cancellation process by creating an “obstacle course of screens and clicks.”

Furthermore, the DOJ asserts that customers face further barriers, like dropped calls, interrupted chat and multiple transfers, making it even harder to cancel.

An FTC announcement summarizes: “Adobe, Wadhwani, and Sawhney violated ROSCA and the FTC Act by failing to get the consumer’s express informed consent before charging their credit card, debit card, or other account.”

In a statement to customers affected by dodgy subscription terms across the board, the FTC said: “If your company uses a subscription model, the filing of the lawsuit should signal to you that the FTC is continuing the fight against buried terms and conditions, hidden fees, and convoluted cancellation procedures.”

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!