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No, Mastercard won’t stop digital subscriptions from annoyingly auto-renewing

Ever sign up for a free trial, only to get slapped with a monthly fee when you forget to cancel in time? For a moment, it looked like Mastercard was ready to provide the ultimate solution — a new policy that would require merchants to explicitly ask you again, each and every month, before charging you a dime.

Unfortunately, Mastercard has now clarified that it’s a way more limited solution than the company originally let on. The new policy only applies when you subscribe to physical products that get delivered to your door, like vitamins and snacks, not digital services like Netflix or PlayStation Plus.

(Nothing against PlayStation Plus, it’s just the one I personally keep forgetting to cancel every year. Netflix just announced it’s raising prices, but I will probably keep paying.)

Mastercard has already updated its blog post to clarify that it’s talking about physical products, not digital ones, and says it’ll add a footnote so it’s more transparent that it has done so.


The original blog post, which didn’t specify that the policy only applied to physical products.

Why would Mastercard admit the mistake, though, instead of just rolling with it and agreeing to protect card owners from both types of recurring subscriptions? That’s not entirely clear, but Mastercard spokesperson Chaiti Sen tells The Verge the company wanted to start with physical products because that’s where its customers had been having the most issues.

“There’s a lot of fuzziness in health care products, skin care products, vitamins… those physical products are where we’re seeing the most complaints,” she says.

These are legitimate businesses that Mastercard wants to rein in, she adds, when I ask if some of those complaints might be due to snake-oil scams.

So if you’re having issues with your Stitch Fix or Graze or the like — for instance, I canceled my Graze snack box subscription a couple years back, but they didn’t cancel right away — Mastercard might help. For everything else, you might be on your own.


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