If, like me, you’ve signed up for one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscriptions under the assumption that because you paid monthly, after the first year the contract was also monthly, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Your subscription is yearly and if you cancel at any point, you will pay a penalty fee 50% of the monthly fees still outstanding.
I signed up for a subscription to InDesign on 30 July 2012, and thought that the contract was a year long, with monthly payments and after the first year a monthly rolling contract. That was not the case: When it automatically renewed in July 2013, it signed me up for a new one year contract, with penalty fees for early cancellation. So even though I paid monthly, the contract was annual.
That’s not a subscription or a membership – they use both terms to describe it – in my opinion. That’s a yearly renewable contract, and it should be described as thus, and the penalty fees much more clearly and prominently described. There are no mentions of the penalty fees on their membership plans page at all, and there’s no mention of penalty fees in their yearly renewal email either.
The first I heard of these penalties was when I tried to cancel my account this morning, and was forced to talk to a “customer service” agent via chat – there is no other way to cancel your account. This is the relevant bit of the conversation:
Adobe: Just to confirm, you would like to to cancel Creative Cloud single-app membership for InDesign (one-year) purchased on 30-Jul-2012 with order #: [redacted]
Suw Charman-Anderson: yes please
Adobe: Thank you for confirming.
Adobe: Suw, If I offer you the next month free subscription, would you be willing to continue the subscription and to avoid the cancellation fees?
Suw Charman-Anderson: no, because I have no use for this software for the foreseeable future.
Adobe: The annual plan you enrolled in offers lower monthly payments and requires a one-year commitment. This plan is ideal for someone with an ongoing need to use Adobe’s Creative software.
Adobe: If you decide to end your subscription before the one-year period is over, you no longer qualify for one-year subscription pricing.
Suw Charman-Anderson: i don’t have any need for your software.
Adobe: You will be billed at 50% of your monthly rate for the remaining months in your annual contract. Hence, you will be charged Subtotal:35.75, Tax:8.22, Grand Total:43.97 .
At this point, I got very cross, although politely so. I had no clear warning that there were penalties in the renewal email or when I signed up, though I am now sure that it was buried somewhere in the bottom of the Ts&Cs. These kinds of sharp practices are relatively rare in the UK and Europe now, thanks to strong consumer protection laws, so I’m not used to having to look out for them.
But Adobe is quite happy to sting you with unethical small print, although I can’t understand why they would do so. Why make it difficult for you to cancel, and then rub salt in to the wound by slapping penalties on top of inconvenience?
If I could have subscribed and unsubscribed easily, as and when I needed the software, then I would have done that, probably indefinitely. As it is, instead of having a loyal customer who’ll give them money relatively regularly for the rest of her working life, they now have someone who feels ripped off and determined to never give them another penny, and make sure other people know the risks of a Creative Cloud membership.
Instead of creating an evangelist for their products, they’ve alienated a previously loyal customer. I will be searching for alternatives to InDesign, and will give another company my money. I’m not averse to paying for good software, but I’ve never been able to afford Adobe software. I thought the Creative Cloud was a way to be able to access really awesome software at an affordable rate, but no, it’s just another way for Adobe to treat its customers like shit. Well done Adobe.
If you’d like to help me recoup the money I’ve lost to Adobe, please buy one of my books from the sidebar! Ten copies of A Passion for Science and I’ll break even on my penalty fee!
UPDATE: It seems that if you scream loudly enough on social media, Adobe will refund the penalty fee. I have told them, though, that they need to be much clearer in their communications about penalty fees, though I bet they don’t change a thing. Instead, if this happens to you, make sure you take to Twitter and kick up a fuss.