Jan Meisels Allen
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Ancestry.com for their auto-renewal practice without the subscriber’s permission, which is a violation of California law. The suit was moved to federal court and seeks $250 million in restitution for consumers. The Ancestry.com Auto-Renewal Class Action Lawsuit is Marta Carrera Chapple, et al. v. Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Case No. 3:20-cv-01456-LAB-DEB, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
According to the complaint, Marta Carrera Chapple, requested Ancestry’s free trial offer, choosing the middle membership tier and entering her credit card details. Ms. Chapple believed her credit card would be charged the monthly subscription amount of $39.99 when her 14-day free trial expired; such a transaction did indeed post Feb. 14. However, Chapple claims that she was not aware when accepting the free trial that the defendants would enroll her in a subscription plan that automatically renewed from month to month.
The Ancestry website class action lawsuit states that additional charges of $39.99 were posted in both March and April. Chapple says if she had known the auto-renewal was going to be charged every month, she would not have submitted her credit card to begin with or, alternatively, would have canceled her Ancestry website membership in order to avoid the additional charges to her credit card.
Consumers wishing to take advantage of Ancestry.com’s free trial offer first click a “start my free trial” button and select a membership tier, the class action lawsuit says. The site then invites the customer to click a button that says “Start FREE trial.”
The consumer is then prompted to create an account, the Ancestry.com class action lawsuit says. That step is followed by a prompt to enter payment information, after which the consumer clicks a “Proceed to checkout” button.
Once the payment information is submitted, the Ancestry website shows the customer an order summary and is asked to click an “Order now” button, after which the site displays a confirmation page, the class action lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that other consumers have reported similar issues with Ancestry.com; “hundreds of customer complaints” have been posted on websites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs. The suit states Ancestry.com has refused to issue refunds when the affected consumers have requested them.
The Ancestry.com class action lawsuit claims the plaintiff suffered injury and lost money as a result of the defendant’s violations of California’s Automatic Renewal Law, which is part of California’s False Advertising Law; the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; and the Unfair Competition Law.
Therefore, the complaint says, “Plaintiff and Class members are entitled to restitution of all amounts that Defendants charged to Plaintiff’s and Class members’ credit cards, debit cards, or third-party payment accounts in connection with an automatic renewal membership program during the four years preceding the filing of this Complaint and continuing until Defendants’ statutory violations cease.”
Chapple’s class action lawsuit proposes a Class including anyone in California who enrolled in an Ancestry.com membership program on or after Dec. 1, 2010, and was charged for the membership “within the applicable statute of limitations.”
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Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee