The Fine Print in Adobe's Creative Cloud

(commentary)

I've been getting some feedback from early Creative Cloud users (it's been available for a year now) and from some of those that decided to sample it and then decide against it. Bottom line: beware the fine print. 

Adobe is fast to promote the "monthly" prices for Creative Cloud. In most places I see those prices it's actually the one-year contract price being used, not the actual monthly price. There is a difference, and it's an important one:

  • Monthly contracts are free to terminate at any time with no penalty. On the other hand, they are "auto renew" contracts, too, so if you're slow to decide to terminate, you'll be billed for another month already. Also, I've already had one report of someone finding it difficult to actually get their monthly contract terminated. 
  • Annual contracts have an early termination fee. You can only avoid this penalty if you terminate within the first 30 days. Otherwise, you're on the hook for 50% of the remaining contract obligation. Thus, if you terminate 31 days in, you'll be paying for at least six months of use. But you apparently won't be getting six months of use ;~).
  • All contracts auto renew. There is no way to turn off auto-renewal. You can cancel by calling in, but you can't set your account to "don't renew." 


Note that Adobe pushes the Annual Contract on their Web site. For Photoshop only, the US$19.99 a month or US$9.99 a month "upgrade" plans are annual contract prices. Those are the numbers you tend to see on their site. The month-to-month plan for Photoshop is actually US$29.99 a month. Thus, you could pay ~US$30 a month and cancel any time, or you could pay ~US$20 a month but get hit with a 50% remaining contract penalty when you eventually cancel. Gee, what happens when you die? Your loved ones get hit with a 50% remaining contract penalty? 

Adobe's policies listed on their Web site are further opaque in that "first 30 days" seems to refer only to your initial subscription. In other words, if your annual contract renews and you then try to cancel it, it looks like you'll pay six months worth of fees to get out, ad infinitum. 

Don't believe me? Carefully read the annual contract section on Adobe's policy page. Note that the "we'll renew your contract automatically unless you cancel" versus the "if you cancel within the first 30 days" clauses, which are separated into two different sections of the terms. "First 30 days" does not seem to apply to the renewal (otherwise a variation of it should be repeated in the Renewal section). Adobe could easily argue that if you didn't cancel before auto-renew, you're not in the first 30 days of your membership. True, Adobe claims they'll notify you beforehand, but I suspect that means they'll send you an automated email. I don't know about you, but many times I find such bulk automated emails end up in my Junk folder. 

Adobe says "If you ever need to cancel, just call Customer Support." Right. I've now heard from two early adopters who got the automatic renewal for a second year and wanted to cancel. Both tell the same story: even customer service supervisors are apparently saying that they don't have the authority to cancel automatically-renewed contracts. It has to go to an "escalation team," whatever that is. But one person says they managed to get a cancellation and refund over live chat.

I'm sorry, Adobe, but I just can't get behind your draconian terms, my previous customer support encounters and those I'm seeing from others make me don't trust that any issues I encounter with CC will get easily resolved, nor can I tolerate the perpetual nature that getting on board your CC software requires. That's a real shame, as it looks like you made some useful updates in some of the products I use. Until I have to change, though, I'll just stick with CS6.  

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