US government sues Adobe for 'deceptive' business tactics and hiding steep subscription cancellation charges to 'trap' its customers

Surface Pro X running Adobe apps
(Image credit: Ben Wilson | Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Adobe has been placed under fire by the US Department of Justice for deceptive subscription practices and expensive cancellation charges.
  • The company is allegedly burying crucial terms about the subscription plan behind optional textboxes and hyperlinks, making it hard for the subscriber to learn about the exorbitant cost tied to the early termination fee.
  • Top executives at the company are also under scrutiny for participating in the acts and practices of Adobe.
  • Adobe has refuted the claims and indicated its subscription agreements are transparent, and the cancellation process is simple. 

Adobe has been placed under fire by The US government for allegedly using deceptive subscription practices coupled with expensive fees that make it extremely difficult to cancel. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint on Monday citing that Adobe is using deceptive tactics to enroll users in its "most lucrative subscription plan."

The suit further details that the company doesn't disclose crucial information about the plan. Instead, Adobe 'buries' the terms in the “fine print and behind optional textboxes and hyperlinks.” Consequently, it's challenging for users to find the details regarding the exorbitant cost tied to the early termination fee, which can amount to hundreds of dollars.

According to the DOJ, users go through an “onerous and complicated” process when attempting to cancel the subscription. The process also forces users to navigate multiple web pages, including an early termination fee. This may potentially deter some users from proceeding with the cancellation process. 

Similar issues persist when users attempt to cancel their subscriptions by calling Adobe's call center for assistance. The DOJ says the live chats or calls are dropped. As such, you start the entire process afresh, making it tedious and redundant. 

According to the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine:

“Adobe trapped customers into year-long subscriptions through hidden early termination fees and numerous cancellation hurdles. Americans are tired of companies hiding the ball during subscription signup and then putting up roadblocks when they try to cancel.”

Adobe executives, including The Senior VP of digital go-to-market and sales Maninder Sawhney, and The President of Adobe's digital media business David Wadhwani are also targeted by the lawsuit. According to the DOJ's complaint, the executives “directed, controlled, had the authority to control, or participated in the acts and practices of Adobe.”

 According to the company's general counsel and chief trust officer, Dana Rao:

"We are transparent with the terms and conditions of our subscription agreements and have a simple cancellation process." 

Adobe has indicated that it'll refute and fight the FTC's claims in court.

Kevin Okemwa

Kevin Okemwa is a seasoned tech journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya with lots of experience covering the latest trends and developments in the industry at Windows Central. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for detail, he has written for leading publications such as OnMSFT, MakeUseOf, and Windows Report, providing insightful analysis and breaking news on everything revolving around the Microsoft ecosystem. You'll also catch him occasionally contributing at iMore about Apple and AI. While AFK and not busy following the ever-emerging trends in tech, you can find him exploring the world or listening to music.