Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 18, 2024
Adobe Inc. and Executives Charged with Deceptive Practices by U.S. AuthoritiesSource: Google Street View

The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission have teamed up to take legal action against software giant Adobe Inc. and two of its executives, the department announced yesterday. Allegedly involved in violating the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, the civil enforcement action targets what is claimed to be deceptive practices that trap millions of subscribers with hidden fees and a cancellation maze, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.

Filed in the Northern District of California's federal court, the complaint accuses Adobe and its executives, including Digital Media President David Wadhwani and Vice President of Digital Go to Market & Sales Maninder Sawhney, of orchestrating a misleading subscription fee plot. Using fine print and obscure hyperlinks, Adobe seems to have concealed details concerning cancellation fees, bogging down customers with an early termination fee that surfaces when they attempt to break free from unneeded subscriptions.

But the allegations don't end there. Adobe constructed a labyrinthine cancellation process. The software firm is covered by allegations of using this confusion-inducing system to safeguard its subscription income. This tangle of hoops reportedly included delays, loaded offers, and warnings—placing substantial barriers in the path of subscribers striving to cancel.

As a response to these alleged malpractices, the lawsuit is pushing for consumer compensation, unspecified financial civil penalties for the defendants, and, permanently, for Adobe to be barred from conducting similar future infractions. “Companies that sell goods and services on the internet have a responsibility to clearly and prominently disclose material information to consumers,” U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California said, emphasizing the imperative of maintaining a "healthy and fair marketplace", as cited by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.

In his remarks about the case, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton stated, "The Justice Department is committed to stopping companies and their executives from preying on consumers who sign up for online subscriptions by hiding key terms and making cancellation an obstacle course". Similarly, FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine highlighted that "Adobe trapped customers into year-long subscriptions through hidden early termination fees and numerous cancellation hurdles," proving a resolute stance to fight against these business practices deemed illegal, as per the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.

This case against Adobe is being handled by four trial attorneys from the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, with assistance from an Assistant U.S. Attorney in California. With legal proceedings underway, consumers and industry observers alike are closely watching as the federal government tries to hold a corporate giant accountable for allegedly using subterfuge to lock customers into unwelcome commitments.