December 15, 2023

Video streaming platforms stop illegal practices! Change of subscription terms only with the consent of the consumer.

Trend Analysis
Szymon Karbowski
Video streaming platforms stop illegal practices! Change of subscription terms only with the consent of the consumer.

Do you have a subscription to any of the streaming services that offer automatic payment? Have they increased the price for the new period without you having agreed to this? This is illegal! Amazon Digital UK and Amazon EU's within the Amazon Prime and Prime Video platforms are changing their operations following a decision by the President of the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) in Poland. The practices of a further seven providers of subscription streaming services are under review by the Authority. Netflix, Disney+, Apple, YouTube, HBO Max, GamePass and PlayStationPlus have already been included in the review of practices. As the President of the UOKiK in Poland announced, this is just the beginning.

According to a report by one of Poland's most popular payment operators, more than 40% of Poles subscribed to a video streaming platform in 2022. In 2021, the average Polish resident had 5.7 subscriptions, compared to 3.9 subscriptions in 2020. Subscriptions with automatic monthly renewal to video or music streaming services are one of the most popular services in many households. The regular monthly subscription fee charged by operators to our payment cards associated with our accounts with streaming services (video, music or audiobooks) should always be on the same terms and conditions that we accept.

Recently, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) analyzed the subscription terms of various services available on Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Video. Both companies' contracts with users used a procedure that allowed a unilateral price change as of the new subscription period. In the opinion of the Polish Office, this is a particularly unfair situation for a customer who has assigned a payment card (credit or debit) to his account and the operator by yourself has decided and alone reserved the right to charge the next subscription period at a new rate. The customer should always be able to decide and accept the new price. He or she should always be aware and informed of the fact that the price is increasing and should always be able to decide independently, whether he or she wishes to continue to use the subscription in question after the price increase or after if the terms and conditions of the subscription package in question have changed. This should be standard practice, as should consumer acceptance of any change or implementation of new rules.

Streaming services and subscriptions are very popular nowadays. The operators of streaming platforms cannot, without the consent of the buyer, decide to change the subscription rate themselves and, without the consent of the buyer, charge higher fees than those chosen by the buyer. In this respect, customers should be able to rely on the service provider not to change the terms of the contract without their knowledge and not to charge themselves higher fees from the payment card associated with the account. Such practices are unacceptable. Nor is there a case of "tacit consent". In the event of a price change, it is not enough to simply inform the buyer; he must be able to accept a higher price or cancel the subscription. Contractual conditions must respect the rights of both parties, and the service provider cannot in such cases "take advantage" of the "weaker party", i.e. the buyer, who has entrusted him with his payment card data in confidence.

Amazon EU and Amazon Digital UK will send a notice to its existing customers in Poland from 8 December, setting out the terms and conditions that Amazon is not allowed to use. Of course, this does not prevent consumers from relying on disputed terms applied by streaming platforms that are incompatible with their rights. New customers will only be able to use the new terms and conditions.

The UOKiK case against Amazon EU and Amazon Digital in Poland was closed at the investigation stage. Solutions acceptable to buyers were worked out in order to protect their interests. It should be noted that both companies did not increase prices during the investigation period. UOKiK proceedings are currently underway in Poland concerning subscription services and those offered by Netflix, Disney+, Apple, YouTube (owned by Google), HBO Max, GamePass (owned by Microsoft), PlayStationPlus (owned by Sony).

Global players must be aware that consumer protection or similar authorities in many countries regularly monitor their practices. It is never acceptable to charge more than what we, as subscribers, have knowingly agreed to pay. Streaming service providers have no right to exploit the ignorance of their customers. I wonder how the other global streaming service providers will stand up to this scrutiny?

#SzymonKarbowski #StreamVX #videostreaming #ConsumerRights #Amazon #AmazonPrime #Netflix #Disney #Apple #YouTube

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