Ancestry Faces $250 Million Class Action Lawsuit Over Auto-Renewals

Jan Meisels Allen


A class action lawsuit has been filed against 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 Auto-Renewal Class Action Lawsuit is Marta Carrera Chapple, et al. v. 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’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 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; “hundreds of customer complaints” have been posted on websites such as Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.   The suit states has refused to issue refunds when the affected consumers have requested them.


The 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 membership program on or after Dec. 1, 2010, and was charged for the membership “within the applicable statute of limitations.”

To read more see:

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee




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Good.  It's a very annoying feature and Ancestry isn't the only company to do it.

Marcel Apsel

People should use common sense.  I had the same thing when I looked once at Ancestry and was proposed a 14 day free trial.  I accepted it and was straight away directed to a page asking me my credit card information.  I said to myself : why Ancestry needs already my credit card information during a free trial.  It should be normal been asked after the finishing of the free trial and it is me to accept their proposal or to refuse it.  Result would have been,  that I would have got a free trial for 14 days and then have to pay, because they have already my credit card information.  My common sense said – no thank you – and I skipped the free trial.  And if you think free ‘cheating’ trials are only with Ancestry, you make a big mistake.  I happens with a lot of other websites.

The same with the cookies: if you don’t accept them you cannot get on some websites.  So people, use your common sense, so as, I hope at least, you do the same when getting phishing mails.


Marcel Apsel

Antwerpen, Belgium


I realize that in some places this might not be applicable right now, but public libraries often have subscriptions to Ancestry that can be used for free.  They won't offer a free trial, nor will they ask for a credit card number.
Some of these libraries have made it possible to connect to Ancestry from home through them during the pandemic.
Yale Zussman

David Ellis

I had a similar problem with MyHeritage.  They offered a one year "premium plus" subscription at a heavily discounted price ($150 instead of the full $300 price).  I submitted payment details and paid gladly.  One year later, they charged my credit card $300 for a renewal I didn't request.  

This appears to be a fairly widespread practice with online services as well.

Bob Silverstein

Two points.  Every free trial I have seen requires a credit card.  If I do take the teaser, I mark my schedule at the end of the trial so I can cancel it.  I do not think what these websites do is bad but two-faced.  On one hand, they are hoping you forget so they will ding you but then again, they offer you the convenience of starting the paid subscription.  Nonetheless, the ethical thing to do is not to require a credit card up front but to pester you as the free trial ends.

Second point.  Terms.  The courts know that no one reads them, that they are written by and for the benefit of website, not the user, they are non-negotiable and they are coercive.  You cannot use the site unless you accept its terms.  The practice is just about universal.  We certainly need reform for both practices.

Caveat emptor!

Sally Bruckheimer <sallybruc@...>

"I mark my schedule at the end of the trial so I can cancel it." 

I do better than this. If I subscribe, I cancel the subscription as soon as it starts. I don't do auto renewals at all I renew if I want to, then immediately cancel again. The company will always notify you that the subscription is almost over. I do this for Virus Protection too, as you can get it cheaper elsewhere than the full price the company will charge.

Sally Bruckheimer
Princeton, NJ

Hank Mishkoff

I've found that Ancestry is actually better about this than some other companies are. They auto-renewed my subscriptions a couple of times when I forgot to cancel. When the charges appeared on my statement, I called them and they pleasantly reversed the charges, no argument, no sales pitch. Other companies have not been so accommodating. I think there are companies whose business plan is basically to charge you by surprise and then refuse to issue a refund, but that has not been my experience with Ancestry.

Elise Cundiff

I've done the free trial at Ancestry, and also MyHeritage, and various streaming services.  I've never felt that it wasn't made clear that at the end of the free trial, I would be charged for a continuing autorenewal at a specified price.    The statement is usually on more than one page, also.    
I can see that someone who just clicks the buttons without reading the other information on the page (and yes, it is in smaller print, in my opinion that is intentional to snare those who just glance at the page) would miss the information.   But it is clearly there, in my experience and as I recall..  
I've also once or twice forgotten to cancel a full membership at the end of the term, and was auto-renewed.  But, Ancestry has always agreed on request to cancel and refund the charge.   MyHeritage refused to refund.   

JoAnne Goldberg

I am so happy to see this lawsuit. Ancestry does notify customers that
it will auto-renew their subscription way before it expires -- this
year, for me, it was five weeks in advance. They don't make it clear
that you will continue to have access to your account until the
expiration date, so I'd guess many people put it off and then forget,
and they don't send out another notice when they do renew.

Yes, they will remove the charge if you call them, but that's a hassle.
The 2018 California law that prevents most auto-renewals and requires
companies to let consumers cancel online should be extended to all states.

Since my subscription expired last spring, I have been using my
library's remote access subscription, and with all the money I am
saving, I am tempted to pony up for MyHeritage. I've never been
impressed by MH but some of your comments have motivated me to take a
closer look.
JoAnne Goldberg - Menlo Park, California; GEDmatch M131535



I too was automatically renewed without notice. I did not want to renew.

Bob Silverstein

If the company does not refund the renewal, you can protest it with your credit card.