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TeamViewer accused of 'unclear' automatic renewal policies as customer faces debt collectors

The company did not comment on how it would change its practices in line with new legislation mandating clearer renewal policies

Remote access software vendor TeamViewer has been accused of enforcing ‘unclear’ automatic license renewal policies after a customer claimed to have been billed for a second year after only agreeing to a one-year license.

The customer based in Germany claimed that TeamViewer sent a ‘collections agent’ from Creditreform for the purposes of “future services” despite claiming to have opted out of automatic renewal. 

In an invoice sent to the aggrieved customer, which paid for a 12-month license up-front and supposedly no longer, TeamViewer revealed that the agreement was made in the small print of its terms and conditions (T&Cs).

When users click to accept TeamViewer’s T&Cs, they agree to the automatic renewal policy which stipulates that customers must write to the software vendor within 28 days of their contract ending in order to cancel their services, the invoice read.

Commenting on the incident in an online discussion, onlookers described TeamViewer’s policy as “predatory” while others debated the legality of the situation.

EU member states have different laws and regulations for consumer contracts so the rules that apply in one country may not apply in another - they are not harmonised across the Union. 

Germany recently passed the Fair Consumer Contracts Act (FCCA), the various provisions of which have become active at different points throughout 2021 and 2022, but most came into effect in October 2021.

One of the purposes of the act is to limit the length of automatically renewing contracts in the e-commerce space, which includes digital services like TeamViewer’s remote access software.

From March 2022, it became law that vendors could not automatically extend subscriptions for another entire year. However, this is just consumer law and does not impact or govern sales to businesses.

“TeamViewer sells software licences to professionals and business customers as we offer a free version for all non-commercial and private users,” it told IT Pro in a statement. 

“As connectivity provided by TeamViewer is often a requirement for business-critical processes we have established a convenient auto-renewal to make sure our customers do not face situations where they suddenly cannot connect to their devices anymore.

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“In general, all our terms and conditions are reflected in our end user license agreement, which is approved and accepted by any customer that purchases a licence.”

TeamViewer has previously been criticised for its billing practices by the head of technology entertainment company LinusMediaGroup.

In October 2021, Linus Sebastian featured a segment on the company’s podcast highlighting how the vendor attempted to encourage him to a monthly subscription for TeamViewer 12, software for which he previously bought a “perpetual license”.

The company allegedly emailed Sebastian and called him on numerous occasions at unsociable hours to push a subscription model of payment after paying a one-time fee of “thousands of dollars” for what he said was supposed to be ‘lifetime’ access.

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