Adobe Accused of Subscription Shadiness

John Lister's picture

The US government is suing Adobe for allegedly tricking users into subscriptions. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the company doesn't do enough to warn users about cancellation charges and makes it too hard to cancel.

The court case is against both Adobe as a company and individually against the company's vice president and its president of digital media business. The key complaint is that Adobe has breached federal consumer protection laws and thus harmed consumers. The individuals are named because they had the authority to make decisions about Adobe's subscriptions policies.

Although the FTC doesn't appear particularly impressed with Adobe's overall practices across its subscription plan, the legal case is focused on a specific situation. It involves the early termination fee for the "Annual, Paid Monthly" plan.

50% Fee to Cancel Subscription

According to the FTC, Adobe doesn't do enough to make clear that the plan involves a one-year commitment and that canceling early is only allowed if the customer pays 50 percent of the money they would have paid through the rest of the year.

The lawsuit accuses Adobe of hiding these details "in fine print and behind optional textboxes and hyperlinks, providing disclosures that are designed to go unnoticed and that most consumers never see." In some cases, key details are only visible if users actively hover a mouse pointer icon over an informational "tool tip".

Cancellation Challenging

The court filings also say Adobe "deters cancellations by employing an onerous and complicated cancellation process" which is also calls "convoluted." It notes that when using the Adobe website "Locating and clicking on a 'Cancel your plan' button does not result in cancellation" and that users must take additional steps that are "wholly unnecessary to complete cancellation." (Source:

Meanwhile customers who tried to cancel by phone repeatedly had calls dropped or transferred to different representatives multiple times: "In numerous instances, subscribers who have requested to cancel through Adobe's customer service believe they have successfully cancelled but continue to be charged. Some of these subscribers do not realize for months that Adobe is continuing to charge them, and only learn about the charges when they review their financial accounts."

Adobe responded to the claims with a public statement reading: "We are transparent with the terms and conditions of our subscription agreements and have a simple cancellation process. We will refute the FTC's claims in court." (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support this lawsuit? Have you ever been caught out by surprise cancellation charges with software? How much responsibility should software companies bear for making charges clear?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Remember when software companies used to produce annual or bi-annual updates? It was not mandatory to upgrade and you could continue to use the older versions for as long as you wanted, provided that it wasn't a major security issue or was no longer compatible with the new and improved version. I really dislike the subscription model unless you're paying for an ongoing service such as Netflix or a phone bill. Subscription for software makes it way too easy for companies to be greedy, and this article is a great example.

drobinson_nc_16614's picture

Intuit has dropped their Desktop version of QuickBooks that I have used for more than two decades and forces their clients to move to their online subscription platform. I had to update to new versions of Desktop every 3 years for about $300. The new online plat for cost $7,200 every 3 years ($200 per month)! They have different versions at lower cost, but those versions lack all of the functions I had on the Desktop version. I purchased the "Essential" version for $60/month ($2,160/3yrs) being told by Intuit Sales that it was similar to the Desktop version. IT'S NOT! I cannot replicate my company invoices and the have only 5 types of invoices which are very unprofessional, and you can only add 3 new fields. The online version is not user friendly at all. It took me an entire day to migrate to this version and another day to match my bank feeds in my account and now I am not very confident that may bank balance is correct. I had to review & match every transaction, one at a time. This use to take about 10 minutes in Desktop because it would match transaction automatically. That bring said I am going to see about starting a class action suit against Intuit for this atrocity.

Dennis Faas's picture

I'm still using Quickbooks 2000 - it's painfully outdated and has lots of bugs, but it still works and isn't costing me a subscription.

drobinson_nc_16614's picture

I was told that my 2021 Desktop won't work with my accountant's program.

Doccus's picture

I hope they nail Adobe's ass to the wall with the way they've handled their subs. I've tried twice to cancel because it was too expensive, but the first time it was a $60 cancellation fee, so they conned me into a different subscription, which I wasn't using so tried top cancel and they wanted $150 cancellation fee. Nowhere did they spell it out in the EULA. their definition of "transparent" is at odds with mine, it would appear.. I wanted to just reinstall my CC3 disc.. but suddenly you can no longer do that.. it won't activate anymore even if you have a licence. So was forced to subscribe at $400 a year, for someone on a bare bones pension that's unacceptable.

russoule's picture

The major software companies found out that they could increase the amount that could be ripped off of their customers by going to a monthly subscription. There is NO REASON that software such as Adobe or Quickbooks REQUIRE monthy subscriptions since the basic instructions do not change unles there is an "update" to the underlying services. In fact, my old Adobe 2010 still works after a work-around to avoid Adobe's date=sensing, and it works just as it always has.

I advise all the users who are being ripped-off to transfer their usage to free versions of .pdf files. There are many out there and they remain "free" or very low-cost such as AShampoo's PDF Pro3 or SumatraPDF or many others.

Don't llet the big boys push you around. Find free versions or almost free versions and tell the big boys to .......

nate04pa's picture

There is a simple reason why software suppliers are going to a subscription model - software does not wear out - it may become "obsolete" but it does not wear out. I have a version of my word processor of choice which is at least 3 versions behind the current one but it does everything I need it to do. I have a word processor from 1988 that would still run fine if Windows 10 would run DOS software.

Regarding Quickbooks, when Intuit sold it and Quicken the new owners went to the subscription model. In order to use the online banking feature of Quicken you have to have the current version. So far the cost of an annual Quicken subscription is "reasonable" but if they make it too costly, I'll stop using it.