Why Adobe Remains One of the Most Unethical Tech Companies Around

March 2, 2015

It’s that time for the annual renewal of my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. This has become a struggle for the last few years, as Adobe makes it increasingly difficult to modify your plan. They want to automatically renew at the highest subscription rate possible. Last year, they double renewed me after I changed my plan to the annual rate from the monthly rate. The company continued charging me for the monthly plan after I renewed at the annual rate.  It took hours on the phone with Adobe to straighten out that mess.

I predicted that customer service would decline when the Creative Cloud products were first announced. See that article here: Adobe’s Empty Promise of Innovation. I think that prediction has been largely correct.

Since I am an educator, I am eligible for the reduced rate for the Creative Cloud Suite. I rarely use the products beyond Photoshop and Lightroom, but I’ve kept the full suite just in case. The price differential was not that great initially. The full suite was $199/year and the photography subscription was $120/year. This year my introductory offer expired and the company wants $360/year for the full suite (and that’s the educator rate). No dice for me.

Now the fun begins. I get an e-mail saying that the company will charge me $360 on April 3rd and “if you’d like to review your membership details or update your renewal settings, simply log in to my account.” When I log in to my account I see that I am set to auto-renew on 3 April at the rate of $199/year. So which is it?

The next step is the one we all dread — a call to “customer service” (and I use that term very loosely). The call is answered in India with all of the normal language difficulties and the repetition of everything I say. “So let me see if I understand you correctly, you just said…” You know you’ve been there.

From customer service I learn that, yes the cost will be $360 when I renew on 3 April, despite what my account settings say. The only way to change my contract type is to cancel my contract which still has a month left in its term. Despite the fact that there is a “cancel plan” link on my account, what I find is that the link only directs me to “call customer service.” The customer service rep cannot set up my account to renew with the lower plan at the conclusion of my current plan (which has been paid for in advance).

I think Adobe is gouging its customers for the full suite, but they have a product people want and they can charge what they think the market will bear. The photography suite is a reasonable deal, but it’s probably more than I would have paid before CC, since I only upgraded every few years. Nevertheless, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop on the photography suite. Once most of its customers are inextricably tied to CC, I feel certain that the company will start to raise the price on the photography suite. You heard it here first.

So what do I think that Adobe does that is unethical?

  • The company provides no way for the customer to turn off the auto-renew option within the online account.
  • The company will not allow you to cancel the auto-renew option at all (even if you call). You must cancel your plan and then start a new subscription.
  • The company will not allow you to cancel your plan online. You must call customer service and wait on hold to talk to a rep.
  • The renewal information provided in my online account is false.
  • The renewal e-mail tells you that you can “update your renewal settings” by logging into your account. This is clearly not true.

This is what happens when a company achieves near monopoly status in the market. The only thing that we can possibly do is complain (which is not likely to have any effect), or wait for a viable competitor. It may be a long wait…