Canceling a SiriusXM subscription isn’t just annoying — it’s illegal, according to a lawsuit filed by New York’s attorney general.
New York Attorney General Letitia James this week filed a lawsuit against SiriusXM, accusing the satellite radio and streaming audio company of “trapping consumers” in subscriptions and “maintaining deliberately long and burdensome cancellation processes.”
An investigation by James’ office found that SiriusXM “forces its subscribers to call or chat online with an agent to cancel a subscription, then deliberately draws out those interactions as part of its strategy to prevent subscribers from canceling.” The lawsuit alleges that SiriusXM violated state and federal laws concerning subscriptions that renew automatically by failing to provide subscribers with a cancelation mechanism that is “simple, timely and easy to use.” In addition, the suit alleges that SiriusXM engaged in fraud and deception by misleading subscribers seeking to cancel their accounts.
“Having to endure a lengthy and frustrating process to cancel a subscription is a stressful burden no one looks forward to, and when companies make it hard to cancel subscriptions, it’s illegal,” James said in a statement.
In response, a SiriusXM spokesperson said, “Like a number of consumer businesses, we offer a variety of options for customers to sign up for or cancel their SiriusXM subscription and, upon receiving and reviewing the complaint, we intend to vigorously defend against these baseless allegations that grossly mischaracterize SiriusXM’s practices.”
SiriusXM had about 34 million subscribers as of Sept. 30. That includes nearly 2 million New York residents, according to the New York AG’s office.
The AG’s office said it opened an investigation into SiriusXM after “hundreds” of consumer lodged complaints that they could not cancel their subscriptions. The attorney general’s investigation found that the company “trains its agents to keep customers on the phone or in the chat for a lengthy six-part conversation that includes asking a series of questions and then pitching the subscriber as many as five retention offers, all to delay cancellation.”
“When customers decline the offers, agents are trained not to take ‘no’ for an answer and to keep bombarding customers with questions or offers until they either relent or become frustrated,” according to James’ announcement. Per SiriusXM data cited in the lawsuit, it takes subscribers an average of 11.5 minutes to cancel by phone and 30 minutes to cancel online. In one case uncovered as part of the investigation, a SiriusXM agent kept a subscriber in a chat for 40 minutes “despite the subscriber’s clear and repeated requests to cancel,” according to a log of the chat.
According to SiriusXM, many of the statistics cited in the attorney general’s lawsuit are exaggerated and, based on the 2020 time period that the state investigated, aggravated by the effects of the COVID pandemic. In 2021, on average, SiriusXM online chat agents responded to consumer messages within 36 seconds to 2.4 minutes, per the company.
The lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, seeks to permanently enjoin SiriusXM from “engaging in the fraudulent, deceptive, and illegal practices alleged” and well as an order directing the company to furnish the names and addresses of each consumer who canceled or sought to cancel a subscription since Jan. 1, 2019.
The AG’s lawsuit also seeks to force SiriusXM “to make full monetary restitution and pay damages to all aggrieved consumers, known and unknown” and to disgorge all profits resulting from the alleged deceptive and fraudulent acts. The suit also seeks to impose fines including $5,000 for each violation of New York State’s law prohibiting deceptive acts and practices.
Last month, SiriusXM unveiled a new logo, a brand-new app, a slate of new channels and shows, and the lower-priced Streaming All Access Plan ($9.99 per month, versus the company’s previous all-inclusive streaming-only at $10.99/month).