InvestigateTV - Internet phone service provider Vonage agreed to pay a record-breaking settlement of $100 million to their customers for what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleged were “dark patterns”.
According to the FTC, thousands of complaints from customers resulted in the 21-page complaint against Vonage.The complaint alleged those “dark patterns” included using endless loops of long hold times and requiring customers speak to a live “retention” agent during limited working hours before processing their cancellation request.
“We knew it was important to get a large amount in this case, because the scope of affected customers,” said,” Angel Reyes, FTC Staff Attorney. “People don’t realize the techniques companies use to manipulate them, or they don’t realize that those techniques are illegal.”
The complaint went on to say Vonage made the requirement to cancel with a live agent difficult through obscured contact information. Even when customers managed to navigate process, the complaint said Vonage continued to charge them without their consent.
We reached out to Vonage for an interview. They declined but sent the following statement:
”Vonage agreed to resolve this matter and is compliant with the requirements set forth in the settlement. The Company felt it was in the best interests of our customers, partners and employees to come to a settlement, so we can focus on creating technology solutions that help people and businesses communicate, connect and engage from anywhere. Vonage has a strong ethics and compliance culture built on integrity, and believes in operating in an open, honest and transparent manner. As always, customers are our number one priority. We remain focused on our customers and supporting their needs to connect people around the world and helping accelerate their digital transformation.”
The FTC issued several ways you can protect yourself from deceptive business practices:
- Before signing with a company google their name, alongside the word “complaint” to see business history
- Review cancellation polices are before you sign up
- Research if there are cancelation fees for terminating service
- Know and understand auto-renewal policies
- If a company allows you to sign up one way, but requires a different process for cancelation, that is a red flag.
The FTC said their Redress Office is currently working on how the $100 million will be distributed to customers.
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