An All-Important Strike against the Junk Fees


For a species so smart, human beings, oddly enough, have a pretty dismal record at not making mistakes. This has already been proven quite few times throughout our history, with each testimony practically forcing us to look for a defensive cover. To the world’s credit, we’ll solve our conundrum in the best possible way, and we’ll do so by bringing dedicated regulatory bodies into the fold. Having a well-defined authority across and every area was a game-changer, as it instantly gave us a safety cushion against our many shortcomings. Now, the utopia you would expect from such a development did arrive, but at the same time, it failed to stick around for long. Talk about what caused this sudden death; it was all technology’s fault. You see, the moment technology got its layered nature to take over the scene, it allowed every individual an unprecedented chance to exploit others for their own benefit. In case this didn’t sound bad enough, the whole runner soon began to materialize on such a massive scale that it expectantly overwhelmed our governing forces and sent them back to square one. After a lengthy spell in the wilderness, though, it seems like the regulatory contingent is finally ready to make a comeback. This has only gotten more and more evident over the recent past, and truth be told, a new lawsuit does everything to keep that trend alive and kicking.

The internet-based telecom provider, Vonage has formally agreed to pay FTC a sum of $100 million in relation to a case, which accused the company of creating an artificially burdensome process to cancel the service that included hidden termination fees. According to the complaint, Vonage allowed users to easily sign up for the service through various different avenues, including online and over the phone, but when it came to cancellation, the Ericsson subsidiary would force you to speak to a live retention agent. In a bid to double down on its shady tactics, Vonage also used to purposefully conceal the cancellation helpline number on its website, limit the hours these cancellation calls were available, and fail to contact consumers who left callback numbers.

“Vonage made it easy to sign up but much harder to cancel, sometimes trapping consumers in an endless loop of call transfers,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement on Twitter Thursday. “In some cases Vonage kept charging customers, or hit them with hidden early termination fees.”

As shocking as it looks, this isn’t really the first time we have seen a company indulging in such schemes of “dark patterns” or “junk fees”, a strategy which various businesses use to forcefully retain their customer base. Just a week ago, more than 11,000 people signed a petition imploring the Department of Justice to open a similar investigation against Ticketmaster for consistently abusing its “market power to screw over concert-goers, sports fans, artists, venues, and other ticket companies.”

Beyond refunding the customers, Vonage has notably agreed to add a simple and transparent cancellation option to its website.

When quizzed regarding the settlement, a spokesperson from the company said:

“Vonage agreed to resolve this matter and is compliant with the requirements set forth in the settlement. The Company felt it was in the best interests of our customers, partners and employees to come to a settlement, so we can focus on creating technology solutions that help people and businesses communicate, connect and engage from anywhere.” 


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