Adobe sued by U.S. for allegedly ‘trapping’ users in Photoshop subscriptions


Illustration of Adobe Photoshop

Adobe, the company behind Photoshop and Illustrator, is now under a legal microscope after the U.S., based on a referral from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), accused the software giant of “trapping” users in subscriptions they don’t want to keep.

According to the complaint, the U.S. claims that Adobe does not properly disclose to consumers that there is a pricey early termination fee (ETF) for its “annual, paid monthly” (APM) plan. This subscription type is available for Photoshop, as well as Premiere Pro, Acrobat Pro, InDesign, Lightroom, and more.

“During enrollment, Adobe hides material terms of its APM plan in fine print and behind optional textboxes and hyperlinks, providing disclosures that are designed to go unnoticed and that most consumers never see,” the U.S. said in the complaint, adding that Adobe infringed on several consumer-protection laws.

Adobe in legal hot water for alleged deceitful practices

Adobe, according to the U.S., makes the cancellation process “onerous,” hindering users from terminating their subscriptions with an ETF “ambush.”

To put the complaint into perspective, allow us to walk you through the purchase flow. If you click on “See plan and pricing details” for any service — let’s use Photoshop as an example — you’ll see multiple available plans, including “annual, paid monthly.”

The problem, however, is that users must hover their mouse over an “i” icon to get any information regarding an ETF, the complaint pointed out.

Adobe annual paid monthly plan information

The U.S. claims Adobe is “hiding” its plan terms.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable / Adobe

The U.S. claims that Adobe is “hiding” its APM plan terms in “fine print” behind hyperlinks and optional textboxes that are designed to be overlooked.

Even with the information provided by the gray box, which says, “If you cancel after 14 days, your service will continue until the end of that month’s billing period, and you will be charged an early termination fee,” the complaint alleges that the information about the ETF isn’t sufficient.

“The plan selection page does not state anywhere that the APM plan requires a one-year commitment,” the U.S. said.

The U.S. is seeking monetary damages for those who were harmed. Plus, it wants Adobe to put an end to these alleged deceptive practices.

When reached for comment, Adobe pointed Mashable to a newsroom statement on the matter from Dana Rao, the company’s general counsel and chief trust officer: “Subscription services are convenient, flexible and cost effective to allow users to choose the plan that best fits their needs, timeline and budget. Our priority is to always ensure our customers have a positive experience. 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.”

UPDATE: Jun. 17, 2024, 4:38 p.m. EDT This article was updated to include a response from Adobe.

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