California has detailed regulations about the requirements for automatic subscription renewals or renewals of continuous services, and the complaint for this class action alleges that Web.Com Group violated them, making automatic renewals and charging consumers’ credit or debit cards or accounts without obtaining proper, affirmative consent, and without an acknowledgement that would allow them to cancel easily.
The class for this action is all persons in California who, within the class period, bought any product or service in response to an automatic renewal offer, as defined by the California Business and Professions Code §17601(a) from Web.com Group, Inc., its predecessors, or its affiliates, via the website www.register.com.
The sections of the California Business and Professions Code dealing with automatic renewals was designed to prevent companies from charging consumers for ongoing subscriptions or services without giving them a proper opportunity to cancel or refuse.
First, it requires that the terms be presented in a clear and conspicuous manner in visual proximity to the offer of renewal.
Second, it does not permit the company to charge a credit or debit card or an account without first obtaining the consumer’s affirmative consent to the offer.
Third, the company must provide an acknowledgement with information about the offer and about how to cancel in a manner that makes it possible for the consumer to retain it. If the offer includes a free trial, the company must tell the consumer how to cancel and allow the consumer to do so before being charged.
The Code also provides more detailed requirements for the offer, such as an easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation. Furthermore, it states, “In any case in which a business sends any goods, wares, merchandise, or products to a consumer, under a continuous service agreement or automatic renewal of a purchase, without first obtaining the consumer’s affirmative consent as described in Section 17602, the goods, wares, merchandise, or products shall for all purposes be deemed an unconditional gift to the consumer…”
The complaint charges that Web.com’s subscriptions for website support and construction services fall under the jurisdiction of this Code, but that the terms of its lengthy Master Services Agreement and the other parts of its website where the purchase is made do not meet the above terms. It claims that Web.com thus failed to obtain affirmative consent to automatic renewals and, further, did not provide an acknowledgement, and that therefore all that consumers have obtained via the automatic renewals have become an unconditional gift under the law.