MoviePass is opting some users into its new plan even after they cancel

MoviePass, the
struggling theater subscription service
, is rolling out a
new plan on Wednesday, August 15th, that will
limit users to three movies per month
, in addition to

existing restrictions on popular first-run films
. It’s yet
another cost-cutting measure in an attempt to combat
severe revenue shortfalls
to save the company. But ahead of
this new plan, some fed-up users who decided to cancel their
MoviePass subscriptions are receiving confusing emails that
suggest the company has enrolled them in its new, modified plan
without their consent.

“Please note: if you had previously requested cancellation
prior to opting-in, your opt-in to the new plan will take
priority and your account will not be cancelled,” reads an
email sent from MoviePass yesterday to user Cristen
Brinkerhoff, who shared the automated message with The
Verge
. Brinkerhoff, who’s been a MoviePass subscriber
since November 2017, canceled her plan on July 31st after
MoviePass revealed its plan to raise prices and limit access to
popular new movies.

MoviePass appears to be re-enrolling customers, even after
they’ve canceled

Six days after her initial cancellation, Brinkerhoff received a
new email from MoviePass indicating she was somehow still
subscribed and outlining the benefits of the company’s modified
plan, which dropped the planned price increase in favor of the
monthly three-movie limit. Yesterday, MoviePass sent her
another email reading, “We received your confirmation for your
new MoviePass plan,” mentioning the opt-in clause as the reason
her cancellation never took effect. But Brinkerhoff says she
was never given the option to opt in to the new plan.

Numerous other users have described similar situations to
The Verge, saying they canceled their service between
July 31st and mid-August, and the cancellation did not take
effect — despite a clear confirmation from MoviePass.

“I had cancelled my subscription last week, and made zero
changes to my account since then,” wrote user Abdullah Kareem,
who’s been a subscriber for the past two months, in an email to
The Verge. “So this email came because MoviePass made
those changes to my account on my behalf and without consulting
me. My billing date is on the 20th, so I haven’t been charged
yet, but they just emailed me letting me know that they plan to
bill me on the 20th, even though I explicitly cancelled my
membership.”

One explanation is that MoviePass did not process anyone’s
cancellations until the end of their billing periods. When its
leadership decided to modify its plan and walk back its price
increase, the company may have negated any cancellations as a
way to retain its subscribers.

But it’s unclear why MoviePass is using language like “opt-in”
without actually giving users a choice to continue using its
service. It’s also unclear if this is more of a logistical
mistake on the company’s end or a deliberate move to retain
unwilling customers. MoviePass did not respond to a request for
comment by the time of publication.

Complicating the situation is that some users are even
reporting issues now when they try to re-cancel MoviePass once
it became clear the company re-enrolled them or never processed
their cancellation in the first place.

Given how frequently MoviePass has changed its product in the
year since its acquisition by analytics firm Helios and
Matheson and its subsequent steep price drop — and how awful
and inconsistent its customer support has been over that period
— it’s easy to see how this could be an automated error on the
company’s part. In the past, MoviePass customers have reported
cancellation issues and hurdles to receiving any kind of
technical help or answers to obvious questions. It’s been
impossible to tell whether these issues were due to staffing
issues, mechanical issues, or a growth-at-all-costs mindset.

The company has also
played hardball with theater chains like AMC
, using
strategic public statements,
misleading data
, and its growing subscriber base to force
businesses to the negotiating table. It’s also been in hot
water
over a location-tracking controversy
, and it’s angered
customers with
nebulous, opaque “surge pricing” methods
borrowed from
Uber.

So there is always the possibility that MoviePass knows exactly
what it’s doing, and it’s feigning just enough ignorance — or,
in this case, shoddy product infrastructure — to keep people
signed up for its service just a little longer, in the hopes
that it’ll still find a way to monetize them and their data.
The initial price drop was designed to build a huge customer
base that could be leveraged into profits and used to force
cooperation out of theater chains and other promotional
partners. While MoviePass is having demonstrable trouble
finding the money to support its user base, it can’t afford to
lose them either.

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