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Why is it so hard to cancel a subscription to Jessica Alba’s Honest Company?

The wheels of consumer rights often turn slowly. For consumers who have filed complaints with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about actress Jessica Alba’s Honest Company, trying to cancel unwanted and unsuspected subscriptions to the companies product shipments is virtually impossible, according to Gizmodo.

Gizmodo saw copies of more than 120 consumer complaints to the FTC against Honest Company. Jessica Alba’s company sells baby, beauty, and home cleaning products. Many of the products are sold by monthly subscription. The greatest number of complaints were about the subscriptions. Many people said they never knowingly sign up for monthly delivery. Whether or not people voluntarily subscribed, the process required to cancel a subscription is extremely difficult.

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After hearing about the problem, Gizmodo obtained the 120 consumer complaints to the FTC with a Freedom of Information Act request. The complaints had the names and other identifying information redacted, which protected the identities of the complainants but also made it impossible to verify the contents.

You’d think that canceling a subscription from an Internet-based company could be done online, especially when product purchases and subscriptions are transacted online. But that’s not the way Honest Company works. Whether you connected with the company via its website or Facebook page, the only way to cancel is by phone, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

From the Honest Company FAQ: “The Honest Company strives to provide the best service and personal experience, but if you decide to cancel, please chat or call Honest Support at 1.888.862.8818 or 1.310.857.3020 Monday-Friday 5 a.m.-5 p.m. PT. Please note: Accounts cannot be canceled via email, Facebook, or other forms of social media.”

Because the Gizmodo reporter read many complaints about interminable times on hold waiting for help on the Honest Support line, he called at 7:41 a.m. PT to experience it for himself. After more than 29 minutes his call was answered. When he asked about call wait times he was told, “As of recently, unfortunately this is like the average. We are just very understaffed and we have been for a couple of months so I apologize about that.”

Gizmodo received the following response from Honest Company:

“At The Honest Company, transparency and customer service are critical to the mission and purpose of the company. We comply with FTC requirements by providing clear and conspicuous disclosures about our free trial and subscription offerings throughout our website and in numerous emails that our customers receive following their orders.

By requesting that our customers call us directly, it allows us to have an open and honest conversation regarding the subscription process and product offerings. With thousands of direct customer touch points a day, our customers help inform a variety of our decisions from product development to website flow to retail locations and product assortment.

We remain committed to our mission of helping people live happy, healthy lives and providing products that families everywhere can trust.”

The many complaints cited by Gizmodo had common themes of being surprised by monthly subscriptions people didn’t expect and subsequent difficulty in cancellation. There were issues with some of the actual products, but the greatest number of complaints were about subscription issues.