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Scribd Continues to Steal From Former Subscribers

There’s an old joke in tech circles that the only reason that AOL was still profitable at the end was that the company was still receiving auto-payments from bank accounts belong to the deceased and the mentally infirm.

I can’t say if there’s any truth to that joke, but I can say that I know at least one company that has adopted the practice as one of their core business practices.

That company is Scribd.

As you may know, Scribd charges $8.99 per month for a limited Netflix-style ebook subscription service. It’s not a bad deal so long as you don’t mind that they will cut you off if you read too much.

What’s less well-known is that Scribd has built its revenue stream on tricking former subscribers into continuing to pay for a subscription that they thought they had canceled.  Scribd does this via a cancellation process that uses what is known in the design industry as "dark patterns", which is really just a term for designing an interface for tricking customers into doing things they did not intend. (Bait-and-switch marketing is another example.)

One of Scribd’s victims contacted me this morning to complain about Scribd’s trickery.

I cancelled I think back in September and just realized I have been being charged for the past 4 months. I know for a fact it said my account was cancelled when I did it originally, but when I logged in today of course it shows everything as active.

I assume maybe there was a glitch because maybe I cancelled in the app itself on my ipad and not on their website. I re-cancelled today and it is crazy how they hide that confirm cancellation link way down the bottom of the page, even though it says at the top you have cancelled. I also noticed it’s all over their terms of service that they won’t give refunds for anything passed 30 days. This is definitely by design.

The thing is, folks, this didn’t just happen to one person. It is exactly the same experience I had four years ago, and this experience is shared by at least a dozen people who commented on that post from 2015.

When I first wrote about this  practice, I blamed myself for falling for it, but now that I see that Scribd has been doing the exact same thing for over four years now, and now that I have reports from Scribd’s other victims, I have to agree that this is intentional.

Scribd has built its business on stealing from former customers. This is one of their core practices, and it casts a dark cloud over everything the company has claimed to accomplish. While Scribd claims to have a million subscribers, we don’t actually know what percentage are voluntarily giving Scribd their money, and what percentage are being robbed month after month.

What’s the over-under, do you think?



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Doug Layne May 7, 2020 um 6:13 am

Yup, I was one of their victims. I just now figured out what they were doing isn’t technically illegal, but I wonder if the fact that what they’re doing is so obviously deceptive that there’s grounds for a lawsuit. I’ll have to ask one of the lawyers I know.

David Wade June 5, 2021 um 12:32 pm

The same happened to me. Count me in on the class action lawsuit!

George June 30, 2021 um 2:30 am

Same happened to me – it said clearly that my account was canceled but nope, they took money for another month. It’s even worse with my girlfriend. Her account was cancelled and they billed her, but if you look at the app, her email is changed to "unknown" automatically and if she tries to sign in online with the email address linked to Scribd, it isn’t the same account anymore. So, they have her bank account linked to a Scribd account with no email, so there’s no way to sign in and change it. And of course "support" doesn’t reply. The only solution was to cancel the credit card and get a new one. Complete scam artist trash.

And btw, while she was using the app. You listen to a few good books and then suddenly they remove all the good stuff and say it will be available again in a month. But you can browse through the random illegal PDFs of other peoples books that have been uploaded on there.

This trash scum needs to be shut down.

Andrea April 21, 2022 um 4:44 am

Something similar is happening to me. I am in shock.

Scammed by Scribd November 29, 2021 um 6:52 am

Happened to me, I cancelled because they limited by books after ONE audiobook… pft — anyways, a few months later they charged me (which I wasn’t expecting because I canceled) and they overdrafted my bank account… bank charge + scribd charge left me – $70 because they charged my card twice!!!!!!!!!

David Arthur Walters January 8, 2022 um 9:42 am

Dumb me. I posted work on SCRIBD just for the traffic, and did not realize they were sharing it with other platforms, e.g. an outfit called docushare@tips which has no known identify and does not respond to its messages, and claims it owns the copyright to its massive copies of SCRIBD posts. I complained to SCRIBD and then it denied me access to my posts, holding my work hostage.

S H March 7, 2022 um 6:25 pm

I just got charged by scribd despite NEVER having signed up for a free trial. I hadn’t even verified my account, so I couldn’t even get past to the homescreen when I logged on to check why I was charged, and my card information was not on the account as well as no payment history, yet I was charged. I went to the BBB website and see that this has happened to a LOT of people. How are they getting people’s payment information? It is scary

Annemijn April 6, 2022 um 4:15 am

I’m having the same issue as all you guys above. Luckily I got it removed from my paypal account, but I want to get the money back. Has anyone succeeded :(?

Andrea Mathews April 21, 2022 um 4:44 am

Something similar is happening to me. I just realized that I have been charged twice each month on two different cards for two different amounts. This was after I switched my payment method on my account. I even took a screenshot of my account settings where it has two completely different payment amounts listed. It’s completely messed up. I have a meeting with a lawyer next week.

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