Is there something fishy going on with Adobe Creative Cloudregarding its subscription practice?
Perhaps there is because it failed to escape the radar of DarkPatterns.org, a website that has been exposing dark patternssince 2010.
Harry Brignull, the one behind the aforementioned website, defined “dark patterns” as “tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn't mean to.”
Through his website, Brignull, a London-based user experienceconsultant, aims to promote public awareness about these dark matters and at the same time “to shame companies” responsible for them.
One example of this dark matter or trick, as mentioned by Brignull, is “buying or signing up for something,” just like in the case of Adobe Creative Cloud.
Consumers complained about auto renewal subscriptions, among other things.
So, let’s find out more about Adobe Creative Cloud and the allegations being thrown at it.
Adobe Creative Cloud 101: Every app in 10 mins
Released in June 2013, Adobe Creative Cloud (also called Adobe CC or Adobe Cloud) is an assortment of software products from Adobe.
With the tagline, “Create Wherever You Want To Be,” Adobe Creative Cloud is mainly used for the following:
(a) web development
(b) video editing
(d) graphic design
Below are the 24 software programs included in the Adobe Creative Cloud program (alphabetically arranged):
(1) Acrobat DC(to read PDF files)
(2) Aero(augmented reality/experiences; publishing tool)
(3) After Effects(visual effects; motion graphics)
(4) Animate(2D animation)
(5) Audition(audio content)
(6) Bridge(digital asset management app)
(7) Camera Raw(photo enhancer)
(8) Character Animator(animation and motion capture tool/desktop app)
(9) Dimension(3D images)
(10) Dreamweaver(web design)
(11) Flash Builder Premium(games; apps)
(12) Illustrator(design app; vector graphics editor)
(13) InCopy(word processor; text and layout editor)
(14) InDesign(page design and layout)
(15) Lightroom(photo editor; camera app)
(16) Lightroom Classic(desktop editing tool)
(17) Media Encoder(exporting videos)
(18) Mixamo(3D character animation)
(19) Prelude(video organizer)
(20) Photoshop(graphics editor)
(21) Premiere Pro(video editing)
(22) Premiere Rush(video editing app)
(23) SpeedGrade(color grading)
(24) XD(user experience; interface platform/tool)
The plans and pricing vary, depending if you are an individual or an organization.
The prices listed below are for those residing in the U.S. and apply to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps:
(1) For Individuals (including non-students, non-teachers): $52.99 per month
(2) For Businesses: $79.99/mo. (per license; for Single App, $33.99/mo. per license)
(3) For Students and Teachers: $19.99/mo.
(4) For Schools and Universities: ranges from $14.99/mo. up to $142.00/yr.
All indicated prices are in U.S. dollars, with all applicable local taxes not yet included.
The solid collection of software made available through Adobe Creative Cloud appeals to photographers and graphic artists, just to name a few.
On February 5, 2022, DarkPatterns.org tweeted, “How Adobe tricks users into a 12 month contract. Thread.” As of this writing, it received 6,511 Retweets and an estimated 18,900 Likes.
The said thread showed the step-by-step process DarkPatterns.org undertook to validate its claim.
(Note: Prices indicated are for U.K. residents.)
Step 1:Go to the homepage of Adobe Creative Cloud. It says there, "Starting at £49.84/mo.”
Step 2:Click “Free Trial.”
You’ll be billed £49.84 per month, which will start after seven days.
Step 3:Click "Start free trial."
Beside the words “Due Now” is “£0.00,” proving that the first seven days of use is free. Written under “Due Now” is the starting date when billing will start.
You’ll also find – this part is written in very small letters – an important statement regarding your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
Step 4:Click the link to “subscription and cancellation terms.”
You'll quickly notice how small the gray letters are, with the words “Cancellation Terms” at the bottom. There is no obvious indication that you can scroll down, noted DarkPatterns.org.
One might even be immediately lured to simply click “Close.”
Step 5:Scroll down.
Only by doing so, will you be able to read the “Cancellation Terms,” which is crucial because it will make matters clearer for you.
Here’s one statement: “Should you cancel after 14 days, you'll be charged a lump sum of 50% of your remaining contractual obligation and your service will continue until the end of the month's billing period.”
Just imagine failing to read this part. Your cluelessness will cost you money.
DarkPatterns.org. explains that your subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud begins the moment you click “Start free trial.” The annual contract costs £598.08 (£49.84 x 12 months).
If you happen to change your mind and cancel, remember that, per agreement, you still “have to pay 50% of the outstanding annual balance.” In this case, that will be £299.04 (50% of £598.08).
See the table below for the different cancellation fees for your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
Going back to the different steps to avail the Adobe Creative Cloud software, one will notice that these two are hidden:
(a) total yearly cost of the subscription
(b) details about the 50% cancellation fee
In addition, DarkPatterns.org. pointed out the inconsistency in the font size. The font size of the “sales text” makes it easily noticeable and readable. The one used for the “clickwrap agreement” is way smaller.
Moreover, it’s “hard to find” the Cancellation Terms of Adobe Creative Cloud, according to DarkPatterns.org.
Michael Redig, an iOS developer from Minnesota, described the subscription policy of Adobe Creative Cloud as “draconian.” Redig fell victim “years ago” and was “sad” that Adobe and the people behind it “haven’t changed their practices.”
Other victims include a biologist from the Czech Republic, a CEO from U.K., a computer scientist from Hamburg, a techmanager from Stockholm, and a programmer from Bologna.
A recent one was Dan Root, a photographer and virtual reality specialist. He was at least grateful that he used PayPal. That way, he tweeted, Adobe “can’t take payment.”
Devdutt Parikh, a Mumbai-based digital consultant, decided not to pay Adobe anymore.
He tweeted: “It was nearly impossible to get out of it as they would charge you to end the term early. I just stopped paying and let them charge me for 4 months!”
Misha Reyzlin, a Berlin-based Russian software engineer tweeted that he just decided to pay the remaining balance because he didn’t want “extreme emotional stress.”
Trevor Goodyear, an Atlanta-based lead solutions architect, sought assistance from the State Consumer Protection Offices from what he called as a “very clearly anti-consumer behavior.”
Goodyear said that he got “a refund and no cost contract cancellation.” So, he’s recommending that victims contact the said government office.
He added: “It was not quick but it was effective.”
In December 2021, Alexander Shvedov, a programmer from Saint Petersburg, tweeted that he already canceled his Adobe Creative Cloud subscription “2 years ago.” Yet, Adobe “silently charged two annual . . . subscription fees.”
In February 2021, at the subreddit “r/Adobe,” user “the_random_korean” aired a sentiment in a post titled, “Beware Adobe Creative Cloud Scam.”
The said user wrote: “Please be aware that Adobe auto-renews your account and jacks the price from your original contract without your knowledge.”
This Redditor echoed what DarkPatterns.org also observed: important details being in small fonts, specifically the term “‘auto renew’ in size 6 or 7 font.”
Another “shady” thing the Redditor complained about is this: “Adobe intentionally banks on the fact that [a] subscriber will miss 1 email after 11 months of use.” Adobe emailed this Redditor about an increase in the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription “330 days” after the “initial signup” took place.
Similar complaints were posted at the Adobe Support Community, calling the subscription “a scam.”
We end this topic on Adobe Creative Cloud with some pieces of advice.
“To turn off auto renewal, you will need to cancel your membership,” tweeted Spanish software developer Alfonso Fernandez.
Adobe has posted on its website on how todo that.
Kyle Andrews, a developer from Michigan, tweeted: “Adobe won't let you cancel without paying the remainder of your subscription fee.”
What to do then?
“Switch to a different plan,” said Andrews. Switching will allow you, he added, “to cancel your ‘new’ plan within 14 days without paying the early termination fee.”
After learning about the complaints coming from different parts of the globe regarding Adobe Creative Cloud, it’s high time for Adobe to review how it sells its products.