Adobe’s Cancellation Fees Are Daylight Robbery

Adobe’s Cancellation Fees Are Daylight Robbery
Image: iStock

I recently wrote about the creeping costs associated with subscription services. So, in an effort to better manage my monthly spending I’ve been looking at where I’m spending my dollars. One of the services I’ve been subscribed to is Adobe Creative Cloud. For almost $30 per month I had access to one app – InDesign – that I was using with one client. But I no longer need the app. And I discovered Adobe’s exit fees were nothing short of exhorbitant.

Subscription apps come with the promise that you can use them and then dump them as needed. “Elasticity” is one of the words often used to sell the benefit of subscribing. On that basis, and because I didn’t fancy splashing out hundreds of bucks for software, I subscribed to Creative Cloud solely to get access to InDesign.

For individuals, you can access the Photography pack which delivers Lightroom and Photoshop plus a bunch of storage for a little over $14. But for access to any one of the other Creative Cloud apps, that price doubles.

I’ve been paying that money each month but the client I was working with has scaled back the work I do with them so I no longer need the software. So, I logged into my Creative Cloud account and discovered that cancelling my monthly subscription was going to cost me over $100.

As I looked a little more deeply into this, I found that even though I was paying a monthly fee, I was basically in an annual agreement. And the exit fee was half of what i would have paid had I waited till the end of my billing year.

I know what some of you are saying; I should have read the terms and conditions more closely. And perhaps you’re right. But once that first year expired I figured I was on a month-to-month arrangement. And besides, Adobe get to change the terms and conditions when it suits them.

This all seemed a little dodgy to me so I posted a small whinge on Twitter.

I really wasn’t expecting anything but an Adobe support person contacted me. They canceled the account for me and waived the charges “as an exception” (that exchange was conducted over direct messages).

All they wanted was to know why I wanted to cancel.

So, here’s the thing. The promise of subscription software is that we can come and go as we please. But – and this was my error – the devil is in the detail and even though you may think you are in a month-to-month agreement, you may well be in an annual one.

Two of the other services I use, Office 365 and Saasu, charge me once a year for annual subscriptions. Others, such as Netflix and Spotify, charge me monthly and I can exit from or change my arrangement each month.

Adobe’s model is different. The contract is for a year but charged each month – presumably because billing people $330 each year for access to one application is less likely to attract customers than $28 each month.

Those sorts of annual fees would have me looking at alternatives. For example, rather than pay $14 per month ($168 per year) for Photoshop, I paid a one-off cost of $90 for Pixelmator.

Although subscription services are common, there are not all subject to the same terms and conditions. And what might look like a monthly agreement may actually be something different. The lesson here is to pay close attention of what you are paying for.

When you sign up for a subscription service, check whether you are entering into a monthly or annual agreement.

While it all ended satisfactorily for me (which makes me wonder if anyone ever pays the exit fees) I’m going to be far more careful when it comes to reading the terms and conditions with subscription services.


  • I love it when periodically Adobe pops up their box asking “How likely are you to tell a friend to buy our products?” – zero, every damn time, with a long note explaining how they are white collar extortionists and are criminals (but have great software). I hate that they are the industry standard.

    • Being the industry standard is why they get away with it. Many people just put up with it, thinking theres no real alternative worth using.

      Microsoft had that advantage as well with Office, though weren’t the dicks about it that Adobe are.

      • I use an alternative called – Photoshop CS5.
        It has all but the “latest” features, so I rate it as over 95% compatible with CC.

        Best of all – I only paid once, for a legitimate product. Every year I DON’T change, I save money…

        • Same here – CS6 – why would I ever move from an outright purchase to a subsciption?

          It’s like MS office. Why would anyone other than business want office 365? People say it comes with cloud, but it doesn’t. You could buy office for $200 and use it for, what 5/6 years at least before there was a new version worth buying or you could pay them $100 every year. You’re definitely paying for that cloud, and once you start putting stuff in it, you’re making it harder and harder on yourself to get out of that subscription.

          To be honest though, it’s not surprising, anyone who’s ever bought anything from adobe knows it’s always been an absolute rip off.

          • If I could find a [legitimate] copy of CS6 I’d buy it.
            As it stands, I’m seriously considering Corel’s Paintshop Pro.

  • While their contractual strategy struggles on the “fairness” test, at least it’s logical.

    I recall trying to cancel a motor insurance policy some years ago. It was around 8 months into the policy, which I had already paid (at commencement) for the whole year.

    The phone call to them was bizarre – especially when the cancellation fee was raised. I tried to explain to them that they already getting the better end of the deal – they had my money for 12 months’ worth of cover – they only needed to provide 8 months of that cover. But to no avail, they insisted that to cancel the policy meant having to pay (a not inconsiderable amount).

    Eventually we reached a weird stalemate whereby they agreed not to charge that fee in order to continue to insure a vehicle that was no longer owned by somebody who had since emigrated from the country.

  • It’s gotten to the stage now when ever I use a service that one of my initial thoughts is “How are they trying to gouge me for money and rip me off”

    • Totally agree. All service providers. Tradesman, banks, insurance companies, every single business that exists. They will steal your money given half a chance.

      It only makes sense to conduct the “ripping me off” test.

  • I drew the line when their subscription went up from $10/mth. I knew that was going to happen and they will rack up their subscription fee whenever they dictate.

    I see zero benefit in subscription models and I stubbornly refuse them.

    It’s sad. I used to pirate software when I couldn’t afford it. Now I make a living form photography but can’t stand having a ‘business partner’ like Adobe that gouges me. I am more than happy to pay for a license fee for a software to keep, then pay an upgrade fee or whatever when I need it and ONLY when I need it.

    I now however choose to get my Adobe needs from MacTorrents for free.

    • Some subscription services are good value i think. Office 365 Family sub is excellent I think. But Adobe’s wasn’t with it to me. As for torrenting software – it’s both illegal and dangerous. If you want to stick it to a software company, buy a different product. I swapped out Photoshop for Pixelmator and there are lots of less expensive or free alternatives for almost every app.

      • I know you kinda have to say that, but “dangerous” feels like a bit of a stretch along the lines of “You wouldn’t download a car”
        (I do actually have a PS subscription for the record, and will look into the contract now)

  • I refuse to pay monthly for anything . I want to know upfront the total cost so I can weigh up the pros and cons of using that product . Also , anything that is not available offline is useless as far as I am concerned .

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