Why Does Spotify Keep Ripping People Off?

Categories: Fiesta!, WTF

spotify.jpg
flickr/Administrador Galeria Uninter
By Emily Lundquist

Ten dollars a month is a small price to pay for practically every piece of recorded music except The Beatles. Which is why, late last year, I signed up for Spotify. Only two months in, however, I was out, and feeling like I'd been ripped off. Turns out I'm not the only one.

See also:
-Streaming Services Like Spotify and Pandora are Destroying Music
-How Has Streaming Changed the Way Albums are Made?

A little background: Spotify Premium, the ad-free and mobile subscription arm of the streaming music service, has been available in the U.S. since 2011, and has over 5 million global users. All the kinks have surely been worked out, right? Not quite. When I signed up in December I was charged $9.99, the price for a month of service. The next day, my credit card was charged another $9.99. That's when the trouble began.

After exchanging emails with multiple customer service reps, I gave up on a refund from Spotify and instead filed a claim with my bank, Wells Fargo. The funds were returned and my Spotify login promptly stopped working. Fair enough.

That was it -- until one month later, when Spotify charged my credit card another $9.99. More emails ensued. The responses I received from my customer support agent, though sympathetic, did little to quell my frustration:

I am sorry if I came across wrongly, I just meant the outcome was that we could not help you and you ended up getting charged again. That is what we tried to prevent as I knew the bank would not help you :(

A dozen emails in, and still without a refund, I received an explanation -- a second account under my name was at fault for the erroneous charge. In both instances, with one phone call my bank identified the charges and made things right.

And that illustrates the problem with Spotify. It's not about the ten bucks. It's how they address account problems, with inefficient web-based customer support, blind shuffling between representatives, and the lack of timely resolution.

My editor had a similar problem. When he canceled his service in January, he immediately received a pair of $9.99 charges, and was told his subscription would continue until March. When he responded via email that he wanted his service canceled immediately and the extra charge removed, he received this response:

The two charges that you see on your statement are both linked to your Spotify account. It's possible that you accidentally pressed the subscription button twice.

But don't worry about having lost any payments. Our system has taken account of both payments and has extended your Premium subscription to two months. This means that you will not be charged again on your next billing date. Your subscription will continue as usual the month after.

However, if you would like the second payment refunded and your subscription to continue with normal monthly payments next month, just let us know your date of birth and the last four digits of your payment card.

In other words, it's probably your fault, but even if it's not, never fear -- we'll just continue your service and keep charging you. (My editor's money was refunded after he mentioned that I was putting together this story.)

Last week I spoke with Graham James, head of communication for Spotify USA, Inc., based in New York City. Our phone conversation was terse and tense, and most of my questions went unanswered.


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19 comments
Emily Barklage
Emily Barklage

I've never had a problem and I only pay $4.99/month

reginawilkerson
reginawilkerson

So with 40 pages of complaints...and about 25 complaints per page....that brings the total to about 1,000...so let's even give you 5,000 complaints...that's out of 5,000,000 users...which, if my math is right, is about .001% of the total users. And for this we get a painfully dull diatribe?  Move on people...nothing to see here. 

mommiesnotright
mommiesnotright

Why pay for spotify when you can stream for free? Who cares if there is a commercial every now & then, still better than the radio :)

Laura Inlow
Laura Inlow

It's a shame you guys have had this experience, but I still think you're probably in the minority. Sure, you can go online and find plenty of people who have had the same problem, but people don't spend a lot of time on those forums unless they're angry because they have something to complain about. My husband has had premium since it has been available in the U.S. and we love it. $9.99 is a sweet deal for unlimited music including streaming on multiple mobile devices (we use it on at least 4 and just share that account). Anyway, it's still cheaper than what it costs to purchase one CD a month, even if you get charged twice (again, not cool, but also not the end of the world).

Craig Mitchell
Craig Mitchell

I just checked my bank history and I haven't been double charged. At least not in the last 2 months.

Raymond
Raymond

This is seriously one of the most uninteresting pieces of crap I have ever read on this site. What next...the time you tried to return christmas lights to Target in June? No one gives a shit.

Sonny Whitson
Sonny Whitson

Glad it's not just me that has had this problem. Oddly enough, I get charged at separate times of the month. Last month was the 9th and 19th. This month was the 3rd and 6th.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

Useless program, never ONCE has it worked right.

tonypatti
tonypatti

Spotify is all about capitalization, as many internet companies are. You simply can't trust any of them with a credit card unless you have some idea that they will provide you with adequate service before you sign up. 

The best test is never to subscribe to anything that doesn't provide you with a customer service phone number you can check out. 

Unlike coolbutz here, I find spotify and pandora to be loathsome examples of the decline in music appreciation in our culture. In a world drowning in an overabundance of music, they simply add to the noise and encourage us to listen to music shallowly, without ever really listening in depth, to more music than any culture has ever had to deal with before. 

CoolButtz
CoolButtz

I had the same problem with being double charged on spotify when I first got it... They refunded my money within like 2 days. Since then, I have had no problems... I have found so many bands through this service and listened to a lot of older stuff, that I never had the money to go out and buy just to check out... Its nice to be able to listen to stuff  a few times before I go to the record store and purchase it... 99% of the stuff I find on spotify that I love, I tend to try and find when I go to the record store. It is also a great tool to have at parties and gatherings. I back spotify, to me, it helps a lot of music to be heard... If people are bitching about $9.99 per month, then they've got bigger problems. My 2 cents.

Andrew Bohler
Andrew Bohler

I will never put anything I create on Spotify

matt_frederick
matt_frederick

It's really interesting to read about Spotify from the consumer's end of things.  Spotify seems pretty lousy on the customer service side, eh?  Well, I think that it's because Spotify isn't in it for consumer revenue:

"Why are they in business at all? 

The answer is capital, which is what Pandora and Spotify have and what they generate. These aren't record companies-- they don't make records, or anything else; apparently not even income. They exist to attract speculative capital. And for those who have a claim to ownership of that capital, they are earning millions-- in 2012, Pandora's executives sold $63 million of personal stock in the company. Or as Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek has put it, "The question of when we'll be profitable actually feels irrelevant. Our focus is all on growth. That is priority one, two, three, four and five."

Growth of the music business? I think not. Daniel Ek means growth of his company, i.e., its capitalization."

reginawilkerson
reginawilkerson

@tonypatti I dare you to listen when you are high....you'll suddenly find it oh-so-not loathsome! Air Supply on demand? HELLS YES!

reginawilkerson
reginawilkerson

@Andrew Bohler Take a stand, bro! I'm sure you'll go far!

matt_frederick
matt_frederick

Yes, businesses are supposed to make money.  This particular business makes its money by attracting speculative capital.  Customer service isn't a high priority for it.  I'm neither a hater nor am I hating. 

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