On Canceling

One of the most nefarious patterns that seems to be increasingly common is companies that accept payment online but then don’t let you cancel service with the same ease. The companies that do it don’t seem to care. This is wrong. Full stop. If your company is doing this, you should stop.

It's less secure.
Email can be faked, and phone calls can be socially-engineered. In many cases, they don't even need to be socially engineered. Just call and make a request. Requiring someone to authenticate online and cancel will be at least as secure as the rest of the product. (Which is hopefully more secure than email and phone.)
It's one-sided.
These companies invest the effort to streamline the process of you giving them something, but make no effort to streamline the process of discontinuing service. You can call, but call centers aren't always open. So then you have to call on the companies terms rather than yours.
It's heavy-handed.
Companies that do this are essentially hoping that you're either too lazy to cancel or that they can talk you into sticking around. It's about them, not you. That's not a business that cares about customers.
It's downright sleazy.
These companies are presuming that if you've decided to cancel, then they don't have anything to lose and no longer need to treat you well.
Many of these services don't email receipts/charge notifications.
The final disturbing trend is that many of these companies also tend to avoid sending charge notifications providing further evidence that many of these companies are hoping the charges go unnoticed. Of course, the transaction is always on your credit card statement, but many people do not review every charge on their credit card statement.

Unfortunately, after calling out some of the companies over the years when I encounter this behavior, I get the impression that most truly don’t care. If they did, they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. However, some companies can and do change their ways. It would be fantastic to see credit card companies and payment processes require online cancelation, but there are logistical challenges that make that unlikely.

I’ve considered turning to chargebacks, but I don’t believe that’s the right solution either. I’m squarely on the fence with that approach, though as it makes the situation less one-sided. Unfortunately, canceling recurring charges with increasingly prevalent shared payment processing like Stripe, blocking one Stripe vendor blocks them all. So preventing future charges is difficult at best. You have to get a new card and number, and that feels like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Building a site to list and call out offenders sounds great, but it won’t help spread the word well enough. Few people will go review the list before choosing a service. Calling these companies out on Twitter is fleeting, but if enough people do it with enough frequency, perhaps the increased awareness will gain the attention of the offenders and drive some change. Perhaps.

For now, whenever I encounter these businesses, I plan on canceling immediately and calling them out on it via social media. It’s likely a drop in the bucket, but I’d like to think that collectively we can raise the standards of the tools and services that we’re all building and using.