The lawsuit claims that SiriusXM instructed its agents to go to such great lengths to prevent consumers from leaving their service that it could take up to an hour to simply convince customer support to cancel a subscription.
The New York attorney general has filed a lawsuit against SiriusXM, accusing the company of trapping customers in subscriptions and making it unnecessarily difficult for them to cancel.
According to CNN, the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by state Attorney General Letitia James, shortly after an investigation found that SiriusXM “forces it subscribers to call or chat online with an agent to cancel a subscription, then deliberately draws out those interactions as part of its strategy” to prevent cancellations.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, James said that these practice violate New York’s consumer protection statutes.
“Having to endure a lengthy and frustrating process to cancel a subscription is a stressful burden no one looks forward to, and when companies make it hard to cancel subscriptions, it’s illegal,” James said.
“Consumers should be able to cancel a subscription they no longer use or need without any issues, and companies have a legal duty to make their cancellation process easy,” James said. “New Yorkers can trust that when companies like SiriusXM try to take advantage of them and violate the law, my office will step in to stop them.”
In her lawsuit, James notes that Sirius instructs its agents to effectively ignore consumers who ask to cancel their services, repeatedly asking for more information until customers either give up or accept another offer.
“Sirius’s burdensome cancellation process begins even before the consumer is connected with a live agent, including time spent waiting in the queue to be connected. Wait times regularly exceed ten minutes to be connected with a live agent by phone, and 25 minutes to be connected with a live agent by online chat,” the lawsuit says. “The wait times do not include time spent going through additional preliminary steps before entering the queue.”
The complaint alleges that Sirius instructs its customer service representatives to take a series of “burdensome” steps before affirming a cancellation request: first, the agent asks “probing questions about the subscriber’s listening habits,” with responses used to sell alternate packages later in the conversation. In some cases, the customer may be pressured to retain their current plan, or be presented the “option” of changing the terms of their subscription package—even if it means moving them to a more expensive plan.
“Your goal should always be to keep our Customers at a Full Price Plan,” Sirius purportedly says. “Customers saved on higher priced packages […] are always more valuable because we earn more money.”
James says that agents are given very little discretion in going off script, and are told to present multiple subscription offers before consenting to a cancellation request.
“If you’ve gone through [all of the previous steps], made the corresponding offers and the customer still wants to cancel, you should honor that request and cancel their service,” Sirius training materials allegedly say.
Somewhat frustratingly, the lawsuit suggests that Sirius encourages its agents to presume that “no” rarely, if ever, actually means “no.”
“The thing to remember is that “No” usually means the Customer is telling us that we need to provide them with a little more information before they make a decision,” the company says.
Before filing the lawsuit, the attorney general’s office interviewed former Sirius customers and reviewed numerous complaints, with consumers indicating that they often spent anywhere between 25 and 50 minutes simply trying to cancel their subscriptions.
In many cases, though, Sirius continued to charge customers for their canceled plans, requiring repeated calls and further attempts at retention.
The lawsuit is seeking restitution for subscribers nationwide, compensation for lost time, and the payment of other penalties and fees.