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Cancel Culture: NAD Reviews Dark Patterns

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the BBB National Programs recently reviewed the Wall Street Journal's claim that online subscribers could "cancel anytime." The inquiry was part of NAD's own monitoring investigation into "dark patterns" that are user interfaces that allegedly (or potentially) misleads consumers. NAD found that Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal's publisher was able to substantiate the claim "cancel anytime" because the publisher demonstrated that a newly enacted cancellation procedure allows subscribers to cancel their subscription online. Previously, consumers were required to call by phone in order to cancel. NAD's finding upholds FTC's guidance which provides that cancellation of online subscriptions must be easy for consumers and available to them in the same medium in which they can sign up for the paid subscription.

The case illustrates that NAD's focus on "Dark Patterns" continues be a priority for their monitoring program.  Advertising claims including representations in advertising about the ease of cancelling a paid subscription must be truthful and accurate.    

Based on guidance in the Federal Trade Commission’s “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light” Report, NAD determined the claim that consumers can “cancel anytime” reasonably conveys the message that cancelling is easy and similar to the ease of subscribing.


advertising & media, advertising disputes, advertising marketing & promotions, retail & consumer brands