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United States Takes Legal Action Against Adobe

On Monday, the US government, following a referral from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), filed a lawsuit against Adobe Inc. The suit accuses Adobe of making its subscription plans difficult and expensive to cancel. The primary allegation is that Adobe hides the existence of an early termination fee (ETF) when users sign up for its annual subscription plan, only revealing the fee when a subscriber attempts to cancel.

Allegations Against Adobe

The core of the lawsuit is centered on the following allegations:

  • Hidden Early Termination Fees: Adobe is accused of concealing significant ETFs in the fine print and through inconspicuous hyperlinks. These fees are only revealed when a subscriber attempts to cancel their annual subscription plan. The complaint states that this practice has been ongoing for years, misleading consumers about the true costs of their subscriptions.

  • Complex Cancellation Process: Adobe is also alleged to have designed a cancellation process that is overly complicated and filled with unnecessary steps, delays, unsolicited offers, and warnings. This convoluted process is purportedly intended to deter subscribers from canceling their subscriptions, thereby protecting Adobe’s subscription revenues.


Impact on Consumers

Adobe’s alleged practices have had significant negative impacts on consumers:

  • Financial Ambush: Many subscribers have reportedly been ambushed by hefty ETFs when they tried to cancel their subscriptions, a fee they were not clearly informed about at the time of signing up.

  • Difficulties in Cancellation: Consumers have faced numerous obstacles when trying to cancel their subscriptions, leading to frustration and potential financial losses. The complex cancellation process is designed to retain subscribers against their will, violating their consumer rights.

Legal Actions and Penalties

The lawsuit seeks various forms of redress and penalties:

  • Consumer Redress: The government is seeking unspecified amounts of compensation for affected consumers.
  • Civil Penalties: Monetary civil penalties are also being sought against Adobe and the involved executives.
  • Permanent Injunction: The lawsuit aims to obtain a permanent injunction to prevent Adobe from engaging in these deceptive practices in the future.

Statements from Officials

Several officials have made statements regarding the lawsuit, emphasizing the importance of protecting consumer rights:


  • Brian M. Boynton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General: “The Justice Department is committed to stopping companies and their executives from preying on consumers who sign up for online subscriptions by hiding key terms and making cancellation an obstacle course. We will continue to enforce ROSCA against those who engage in such misconduct. No company, whether it is a small business or a member of the Fortune 500 like Adobe, is above the law.”

  • Ismail J. Ramsey, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California: “Companies that sell goods and services on the internet have a responsibility to clearly and prominently disclose material information to consumers. It is essential that companies meet that responsibility to ensure a healthy and fair marketplace for all participants. Those that fail to do so, and instead take advantage of consumers’ confusion and vulnerability for their own profit, will be held accountable.”

  • Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection: “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. The FTC will continue working to protect Americans from these illegal business practices.”

Case Management

The case is being handled by several attorneys from the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch and the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Key personnel involved include:

  • Trial Attorneys Francisco L. Unger, Amber M. Charles, Zachary L. Cowan, and Wesline N. Manuelpillai.
  • Assistant Director Zachary A. Dietert.
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. DeVito for the Northern District of California.

This lawsuit underscores the importance of transparency and fairness in online subscription services. By taking legal action against Adobe, the US government aims to protect consumers from deceptive practices that obscure true costs and create undue obstacles to cancellation. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for how companies handle subscriptions and disclose terms to their customers in the future.

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