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Adobe will charge your credit card even if you cancelled their trial

Suggestive image representing Terms and Conditions of a company

It seems Adobe interprets the term “free trial” differently than most people and charges your credit card for the subscription fee even if you cancel the trial after a day or two, deactivate their software and remove it from all your devices.

I downloaded Adobe’s latest Photoshop version, tried it out for a day and cancelled my trial and – as it would have been logical, even from a legal point of view — my subscription (“plan” as they call it) with it. But that’s not how Adobe sees things. Here is what happened next.

When I installed the trial, I was suspicious of the demand to enter credit card details before you’ve even started a trial period, so I used a prepaid card with very little money on it (some €5 or less even). When I cancelled the trial, I removed all the software including all the software’s support folders. I used Path Finder’s folder/file search for this so that I could even remove files like plists and other files that Adobe dumps in the oddest places on your Mac.

We’re a month later now and in the meantime, I haven’t even bothered to visit the Adobe account. This morning, however, I received an email from Adobe’s billing department, telling me there was a problem with the payment of my monthly subscription; it was the third time they’d tried to charge the card to no avail. They asked whether I would be so kind as to take a look and pay the fee.

This doesn’t make sense and, luckily, I live in the EU where we have rules that protect buyers from practices such as these. Consequently, the fact that nowhere on the Adobe site it says what I need to do if I want to cancel the actual subscription when I have cancelled the trial weighs heavier legally than whatever might be stated in Adobe’s T&C’s.

In some countries – my native country Belgium being one of them – the way Adobe has set up its system can be considered an infraction of the law on consumer protection – when I was still a lawyer, I would have enjoyed setting up my plea accordingly. The sheer fact that they’re asking for payment information – your credit card data – before you can try out the software is not allowed.

Even if you’re not living in a country where such practices are not tolerated, Adobe interprets the rules as flexible as they can and as most people don’t seem to care, they get away with it.

Yet, the list isn’t short:

  • They ask for a credit card before what I – and you probably as well – considered to be a mere trial.
  • The trial offer’s webpage does not inform you that, at the end of the trial period, you can only cancel the subscription by explicitly launching a request through Adobe’s support team.
    • This effectively contradicts you having a trial in the actual sense of the word. What you get is, in fact, a free week of subscription time.
  • You can’t cancel an Adobe subscription by going to your account page and clicking on the “Manage Plan” page. Instead, you must ask for help from Adobe’s support team.
  • However, nowhere will you find an email address, phone number or another way to contact Adobe’s human support directly.
  • Instead, you need to initiate a chat with an automated support “agent” — a robot — which has standard replies that aren’t helpful.
  • The only way you can get in touch with a human is to explicitly tell the bot you need human input and hope that it understands what you’re saying and put you in touch with a human being.

In short, Adobe makes it as difficult as it possibly can for you to cancel your subscription and fools you into thinking a “free trial” means that, if you cancel the trial you also cancel the subscription.

Conclusion

It’s no wonder that two million people have jumped ship and transferred their business to Serif’s Affinity software, for which you pay a good, old-fashioned licence, get a generous number of updates, often with new capabilities over the course of five (5!) years for Designer and three years already for Photo, and are free to upgrade or not when the time comes.

The fact that Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher are lean and mean creativity machines and that they too let you create the most beautiful art is, of course, just as important.

In a sense, Adobe could be doing us all a favour by acting the way it does. It makes it perfectly clear that very large corporations are only interested in making money no matter what, that they’d better bury the marketing rubbish about how they want to empower their customers and that they aren’t shy of using dubious practices in the process.

In a sense, Adobe behaves just like Facebook. That company buries its T&C’s, intellectual property rights and privacy statements deep into many pages of esoteric legalese so that users of the platform are basically without rights. Only a scandal like Cambridge Analytica rattles their cage.

That doesn’t mean we are all powerless victims. We do have a choice.

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