Today, CDT is releasing its final best practices guidance for online subscription upselling—the practice of offering add-on subscription services to consumers while they’re purchasing a separate product. This is an issue that CDT has worked on with industry and consumer advocates for the past couple of years, and we hope that the document we are releasing today will help set norms for how companies market to consumers online.
We initially got involved with this issue in 2009, when the Senate Commerce Committee held high profile hearings on the practice of upselling, and state Attorneys General brought actions against a number of companies for aggressive practices.
There was concern, for example, that a consumer purchasing a book from an online vendor might see an offer for an unrelated “shoppers’club membership” from an unknown third party. The consumer might inadvertently click to purchase the subscription service, thinking instead that they were merely completing the checkout for the book. The consumer wouldn’t even be asked to provide payment information to the third party because the original vendor would send it to the upseller in exchange for a cut of the “sale.”