Joining a growing list of states (not to mention the feds), DC has enacted a law governing auto renewal programs: the Automatic Renewal Protections Act of 2018. Like other state laws, this one requires marketers who sell a good or service to a consumer pursuant to a contract that will automatically renew at the end of a definite term to disclose the automatic renewal provision and cancellation procedure clearly and conspicuously in the contract.
The Act contains specific notice and disclosure requirements for contracts that have an initial term of one year or more that will auto-renew for at least one month and for free trial offers of one month or more that will auto-renew at the end of the free trial (presumably with a for-pay contract).
For covered contracts, the seller must provide notice no fewer than 30 days and no more than 60 days before the cancellation deadline that clearly and conspicuously discloses the fact that the contract will auto-renew, the costs for the goods or services during the new term, and the deadline and methods for cancellation. And, if the seller's notice is provided by email, it must include active links to permit the consumer to cancel.
And here’s the kicker for free trials: notwithstanding the customer’s consent for the free trial, including the auto-renew provisions, the marketer must again obtain the customer’s affirmative consent prior to converting the free trial to an ongoing contract. I'm not sure where that leaves the "auto" in auto renew, but it certainly will prevent consumers from unwittingly entering into long contracts. [Update: originally, the notice period for the auto-conversion for the free trial was 1-7 days prior to renewal. That was amended to provide for a notice period of 15-30 days prior to renewal.]
A violation of the Act makes an automatic renewal provision void and terminates the contract at the end of the term in which the violation occurred. It also constitutes a violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, unless the marketer demonstrates that the violation occurred in good faith notwithstanding its implementation of written compliance procedures.
Marketers with nationwide programs should take heed of these new requirements.