National Consumers League

NCL applauds DC Council for taking action to protect consumers from deceptive fine print contracts

December 5, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering worker and consumer advocacy organization, applauds DC Council for taking action to protect consumers from deceptive automatic renewal clauses. Yesterday, DC Council voted unanimously to pass the “Structured Settlements and Automatic Renewal Protections Act,” which will require that clear notice and disclosure be provided to consumers before contracts automatically renew.  Automatic renewal clauses, also known as negative option clauses, are often snuck into the fine print of contracts to mask rate hikes, or cause gym memberships, newspaper subscriptions, or other services to renew without a consumer’s knowledge or consent.

The following statement is attributable to Brian Young, NCL’s public policy manager: 

Today’s action by the DC Council is a win for consumers. Soon, unscrupulous companies will be unable to sneak these clauses into the fine print of contracts to trick District residents into expensive services they no longer want or can afford. Polls show that 1 in 3 Americans has been tricked into agreeing to an automatically renewing contract. Today’s action by the Council to require companies to provide consumers with a clear notice of an automatic renewal clause and to receive a customer's affirmative consent prior to converting a free trial into a lengthy contract is a giant step forward for consumer protection in the District. This legislation will ensure that these clauses are used fairly and ethically.

NCL applauds Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Charles Allen, David Grosso, and Anita Bonds for their hard work to provide this long overdue protection to District residents. We urge Mayor Bowser to quickly sign this bill into law. 

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.