April 15, 2024

We’ve all been there before. You forget to cancel a subscription and it auto-renews, charging you for something you don’t even use anymore. But what happens when you know you canceled the subscription and still get charged? That’s what some 23andMe customers allege. And many say the genetics testing company still refuses to give them a refund.

Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FTC for consumer complaints about 23andMe that were lodged since January 2023. The FTC released 133 complaints, many of which detailed incidents when customers say they tried to get refunds on annual memberships that renewed but were denied those refunds. Strangely, many insist they did cancel before the renewal date. Users also complained the price of renewals was sometimes significantly higher than the price they originally paid for the service.

Personal information about the individuals who filed the complaints was redacted by the FTC, making it impossible to independently verify each allegation. But many of the complaints, which we’ve published below, are worth highlighting because they point to potentially systemic problems at the company. Or, if 23andMe doesn’t consider them problems, they’re business practices that the average American would consider unfair.

Reached for comment via email, a spokesperson for 23andMe defended the company and its refusal to issue refunds, except when it’s granted exceptions on a “case by case basis.”

“Our policy with regard to refunds is that payments for kits and/or membership services are non-refundable. We do not provide refunds or credits for partially used membership periods,” the 23andMe spokesperson wrote late Thursday.

“If you cancel a membership service, you will continue to have access to the membership service until the end of the applicable membership period. We do send a 30-day notification to all customers whose membership is coming up for renewal,” the spokesperson continued.

Many tech businesses have developed a subscription model over the past decade that comes with both positives and negatives. On the plus side, you might get access to things like movies and TV shows that would’ve previously required purchasing physical media. But we all know the downsides. You don’t actually own the things you’re paying for and forgetting to cancel a service you no longer use can run up quite a tab.

Some companies also make it a chore to cancel, like the New York Times, which rather infamously allows anyone to sign up digitally but requires a phone call to cancel. And the consumer complaints about 23andMe filed with the FTC are in that same vein.

Below we’ve pulled 25 complaints that help give an idea of what challenges customers say they’re facing. The complaints have been only lightly edited for readability and are consistent with stories shared in online spaces, like the Reddit community for 23andMe.

1) “It seems this is what they’re doing to probably hundreds or thousands of people”

23andMe renewed a subscription that I did not want at 10 times the original price. When I realized what happened, I went on their website and was promised a refund for the unused portion of my “membership.” I never received any other communication from them, nor did any money get refunded to my credit card. I sent in an email request through their website today, and I was told that it was my fault for not canceling the membership, and they refused to refund anything. Looking at the BBB complaints department, it seems this is what they’re doing to probably hundreds or thousands of people.

2) “I immediately logged in, thinking I was hacked.”

I was asked to try a service on 23andMe over a year ago. I saw no benefit to the service, so I did not set my account to auto-renew. My wife mentioned we were charged $99 from the company. I immediately logged in, thinking I was hacked. No, they enrolled me in an auto-renew subscription without my permission and charged me for a membership I neither wanted nor used. I went on their Contact Us page and clicked their Chat icon. In that chat, I was told I would receive a refund for the unused portion of the membership subscription. Considering I hadn’t used it, I felt I would receive a full refund. The chat person said they may deduct some, considering a few days had passed since it auto-renewed. I received an email on Aug. 25th that showed I had submitted a request, but no transcript was made available. I found this odd since that’s usually included in an email from chat. On Sep. 26, realizing I had not received a refund from the company, I went through the same steps on their website and selected an email request. I stated my issues, and I was told by “Ella” in Customer Service that they would not issue any refunds and that I should have canceled before the auto-renew (which I never signed up for). I have since deleted my entire account – even for the free services they provide. I want my $99 refunded.

3) “You CANNOT charge people who have turned off renewal”

I turned off auto-renew after the last unwanted renewal. However, I was STILL charged for a renewal. I did not authorize this. I turned off the auto-renewal, which this company does not make easy to do and does not send a confirmation about. I did not receive any emails telling me that I was going to be charged again. Why would I? I turned it off 11 months earlier.

Based on all of the complaints I see here and online, this is a terribly unethical company. You CANNOT charge people who have turned off renewal. It’s absurd.

4) “Which is a load of garbage…”

I have the same complaint it seems everyone else has. Was charged a $29.99 fee for something I don’t remember ever signing up for. I don’t even think I’ve signed into my account in the last 11 months. I’ve gotten the same generic email everyone else has received about it being non refundable and they sent a reminder email 30 days and 7 days before. Which is a load of garbage because all I have from them is a million spam messages and none about being charged. I contacted them the same day that I was charged and keep getting the run around and the same message over and over again. I’ve asked for proof that the emails went out and haven’t gotten it. Now I know how they are making their money, scamming people out of $29.99 and refusing a refund.

5) “The customer service will not refund despite their practices being predatory”

I cancelled my subscription with 23andMe in January 2022 and asked to be removed from auto billing. Nevertheless, they charged me an annual fee on January 15, 2023. The customer service will not refund despite their practices being predatory.

6) “I had to go back in and turn off the subscription AGAIN on the profile that they resubscribed.”

I cancelled all my recurring subscriptions on or around 11/20/2022. I was charged the cost of an annual subscription today. I had to go back in and turn off the subscription AGAIN on the profile that they resubscribed. I contacted them today to reverse the charge and explained that I had canceled all 3 profiles and that I wanted a refund. I was told they couldn’t see any profiles but the one that they re-subscribed and that I have no choice but to be out the money they took and keep the subscription. Thia is unacceptable. The desired resolution is to refund my money and keep the subscription that I did not want and won’t use.

7) “I am a single mother out of work for over a year.”

This morning I received a $79 charge for auto renewal. Which to my surprise was possible because I had this same issue last year and paid and just cancelled auto renewal so this would not happen again. The guy I spoke with refused me a supervisor to speak to. This is not right he said on his side it didn’t say to cancel but why on my side it did? This is a complete scam. I need my renewal fee refunded to me ASAP, I am a single mother out of work for over a year. This is why I cancelled last year due to my financial status.

8) “I am angry and fed up”

On Friday I tried to cancel my 23andMe yearly membership and the screen said that It went through. On Saturday August 12th, I received notification that my card was charged the $69 membership fee. I proceeded back to my account and again clicked cancel my subscription. About 20 minutes after I received an email saying I have access to my membership until 2024 because it had renewed. I reached out to a customer service representative via chat on their website, and he told me that there are no refunds but he would open a case and higher ups would be in contact with me by email in 1-2 days max.

It is now August 14th and I tried multiple times to reach customer service by chat again, and they told me “someone will send a follow up email with directions” and I never received the email. Then two representatives proceeded to disconnect the chat on me once they heard what the problem was. I called the customer service number at this point and spoke to a woman who proceeded to tell me that there are no refunds for memberships and that cancellation is required before the renewal date. She said once again a case will be opened and higher ups will contact you by email in 1-2 days max and I’m sorry the other agent told you that and you never got an email response. I am angry and fed up and all I want is my money back that I was wrongly charged for.

9) “This business is shady and a scam.”

I am filing this complaint because last year (2022), I received an unlawful charge to my credit card from 23 and Me for their membership. I contacted them at that time telling them I didn’t want it autorenewing and I didn’t sign up for this. They said that I must have and there are no refunds. I argued with them but they refused to help. So I lived with the fraudulent charge from them. I was sure to cancel the autorenew. Then this year (2023), I received an email stating if I wanted to renew my membership to click on the link. I deleted the email and DID NOT click the link. Then the next day I received another unlawful $69.99 from 23andMe. Again I contacted them telling them I most definitely did NOT authorize this and to cancel the membership and refund. Again, they refused saying I must have done it since it shows I logged in. But I only logged in so that I could use their chat and get their customer service info. Never did I log in before that time. This business is shady and a scam. The fact that they wont allow me to cancel, wont refund, and continue charging me year after year is unacceptable.

10) “I searched for these renewal notice emails using my email search function with the company name and none were found even in junk/trash folders.”

I am attaching documents about a 02/27/23 charge in the amount of $29 for an auto renewal membership for 23andMe services that I did not expect, recognize or authorize. When I noticed this unauthorized charge processing (before it was posted) I first went to my account on the 23andMe website to search for the chargebilling and could not find it listed.

I called 23andMe and spoke to a representative stating my concerns. I was made to sign into my account again where I was assisted in canceling this annual auto renewal the same day it was first listed as processing to my account and immediately asked the company telephone rep to have this charge removed. The cancelation and membership features were hidden in the settings area where the average person would never look. You had to click edit on your personal info to even show that you had been signed up for an autorenewal membership.

The agent has refused refund stating I was notified 30 days prior and again 7 days prior about my renewal. I searched for these renewal notice emails using my email search function with the company name and none were found even in junk/trash folders. Screenshot enclosed showing no such emails about renewal were found.

I received an email from a 23andMe spokesperson after my call reiterating there would be no refund, that they sent two renewal notices neither received or could be found by me. Copy of correspondence attached as well as a copy of my reply requesting a refund stating I had never received any renewal notices. I further stated I was unaware that I had signed up for auto renewal. I also have not used any premium features the membership involves for this new year of 2023 that I am being charged for.

My father was also signed up for this feature without his knowledge and I was not only unable to cancel it for him online after learning how to do so with my own account but there was literally no area to make any type of cancelation on his website 23andme account homepage in the area where mine was found with the assistance of a 23and me employee online. I needed customer service to manually cancel his auto renewal for him. I have these emails if needed.

It clearly states in the auto renewal policies that I have since found that I was to receive notifications of auto renewal which I NEVER received. I have a screenshot of this.

I hope this charge can be reversed. I hope this company revises its online autorenewal policies and access to cancelation for its members. This company added this membership to allow members to see more genetics data that used to be free with the expensive genetic testing. How this is set up is a total scam.

11) “If they weren’t doing something shady, they would offer a resolution or proof that I was notified in advance of the charge.”

On 4/13/23 23andMe withdrew $29 from my account for an auto-renew membership charge. I contacted them regarding their practices and that I was not notified of the upcoming renewal payment giving me adequate time to cancel if I wished.

They assured me that they sent two emails to me, 30 days and 7 days prior to the billing notifying me of the charge. I requested proof that these emails were sent as I did not receive them. They have stated they are unable to produce the emails in question but assure me they were sent. If they were sent they should be able to be resent logically.

I requested a refund to which I was told it was non-refundable. It’s a shady business practice to not notify customers of an upcoming charge on a non-refundable service. I have since disputed the charge with my bank as it’s fraud when it was not authorized by proper notification.

Businesses should not be able to have these types of practices. They have this set up on an auto-renewal and non-refundable basis for a reason. If they weren’t doing something shady, they would offer a resolution or proof that I was notified in advance of the charge.

11) “This is just a scam to continue leeching people for money…”

Got a notification that I had somehow been signed up for a yearly $30 subscription I never wanted, and that it was about to renew. Thought I had canceled the request after spending nearly an hour trying to locate where I could cancel on the website.

Saw a charge on my account, finally figured out how to “finalize”?? The subscription cancellation to avoid another year and the charge, but still was charged and now am being told that even though I had attempted to cancel the subscription and haven’t used the service- I’m out 30 bucks, but good news- have yearly access to reports I don’t want. I emailed customer service and they just keep on repeating that my situation was resolved when nothing was addressed nor corrected.

I feel these are deceptive business practices to 1) automatically enroll people in a recurring subscription while 2) making it completely inaccessible to cancel that subscription, and 3) just parroting that the charge I spent HOURS trying to prevent from occurring in the first place is non refundable when I don’t want the service.

Terrible experience – wish I had gone with another service- this is just a scam to continue leeching people for money for nominal services hoping they give up on the cancellation or don’t want to spend the time arguing when they actually do cancel it and are charged anyway.

12) “Same day I requested to cancel the membership…”

Annual membership renewal charged on Dec 17th 2022. Same day I requested to cancel the membership and refund but I got no refund due to policy. “The 23andMe+ membership is non-refundable, and we do not pro-rate memberships.”

13) “I realized then that this was set up to keep the automated charges recurring against a customer’s wish and right to cancel!”

On 3/15/2023 I noticed a $29 charge from 23andMe on my Discover account. I don’t recall signing up for this service and have been charged $29 on 3/2021 and 3/2022. However, this isn’t the biggest issue. When I attempted to investigate, or cancel any recurring charge it was IMPOSSIBLE to get through to anyone. I tried on the website and was directed to an option to cancel that did not exist (the option was simply not there)! Then I attempted to do an online chat with a representative, and as the chat was happening, the agent gave me direction to access another place on the website where there was allegedly an option to cancel. That one did not exist either. When I went back to the chat, it was gone. I was going to begin another and the button for the option to chat was gone! So I tried the phone number. It was automated, and only gave two options (something about purchasing a kit and and checking on your results). No option for canceling a service, nor any option to speak to a representative. I realized then that this was set up to keep the automated charges recurring against a customer’s wish and right to cancel! This is a predatory and completely UNETHICAL practice. I have contacted my credit card company for assistance. And I wanted to prevent anyone also from getting into this situation. So frustrating and so very wrong.

14) “I did call them about 2 months ago to cancel the renewal”

The business charged me a 23 and me + account as a renewal from last year when I accepted the offer. I did call them about 2 months ago to cancel the renewal as I do not use this service and it is irrelevant. The renewal was on February 6th on my partner’s credit card and I just spent about one hour with a CSR located in the Phillipines with a script denying me refund, and telling me they have a policy of not refunding money, yet, this was cancelled. If when I called the person didn’t mark it as cancelled (as it is not too clear where to cancel this on their website) it is an issue. I want my refund and after this I will totally delete all my data they have and part ways. Bad management and terrible service.

15) “I’m not sure how a business with this kind of practice is allowed to exist.”

I received an alert on my phone this morning that I was charged $69 to my apple wallet by 23andMe. The charge was for a subscription renewal I didnt know I had signed up for. Upon investigation, I logged into my 23andMe account to find that a trial subscription had auto renewed today. I immediately canceled the subscription and confirmed that I did not have any credit card information on file with the site. I’m not sure how they had access to charge my Apple Wallet. I immediately requested a refund from customer care. Upon talking to 4 representatives, 2 of which were supervisors. They refused to reverse the transaction and give the money back. Once again, the renewal was today and I had no knowledge, nor did I give them permission to charge me. They still continue to refuse the refund. I believe this is a shady and misleading business practice. It would be one thing if it had been multiple months or even days into the subscription service, but this is the same day. I have not taken advantage of this service at all. Please investigate. I’m not sure how a business with this kind of practice is allowed to exist. They treat their customers very poorly and do not listen to concerns.

16) “Their choice to refuse refund after a HUGE price increase and cancellation process was predatory”

I signed up for the 23andme subscription service that included an auto renewal clause at $29 per year. This morning I was charged $69 at 6:08am. I immediately went online, cancelled the auto renewal, and sent a message on their website to refund the charge. This was completed at 6:22am. The process to cancel was a bit cumbersome having to click through several “are you sure” type pages. In the company’s response I was told there are no refunds for the service without exception. I explained that the request came 14 minutes after the charge and their choice to refuse refund after a HUGE price increase and cancellation process was predatory. They still refused. I decided to look further into the issue. The credit card that was linked to the agreement was stolen back in May. The card was cancelled, and I was issued a new card with a new credit card number, expiration date and security code. I NEVER updated my card information with Paypal OR 23andme, however, my new card was still charged for the service. A more than 250% price increase autorenewal, and failure to refund after 14 minutes seems predatory.

17) “This should be illegal!”

On July 26, 2023, I was charged for renewal of my 23andMe+ membership. I noticed the charge on August 2, 2023. I was surprised by the charge and the fact that it was $50 more than last year. When I contacted 23andme, their customer service refused to cancel my new membership and refund my money. There was no offer of even a prorated refund. Instead she started restating a prewritten script that offered no solution.

After I asked the CSR to escalate my complaint and request, I received an email from the company stating they had emailed me ONE reminder of subscription renewal and its price increase on June 27, 2023 and that was sufficient notice. I have not accessed the new 23andme+ reports since renewal, and their email did not stand out in the glut of marketing emails they send. I find their stance outrageous and completely customer unfriendly. This should be illegal!

18) “Shady, manipulative and misleading…”

A subscription that I was unaware I was signed up for auto-renewed today. I received an alert that I was charged $69 via Apple Wallet from 23andme. I immediately logged into my account, canceled the membership, and confirmed I did not have any credit card information on file with the website. I contacted customer care immediately. They refuse to refund my money, even though the transaction was processed today. I have spoken to 4 members of their customer care team, including 2 supervisors who refuse to reverse the transaction. I believe this charge was made under shady, manipulative and misleading business practices.

19) “There was no empathy…”

I cancelled my membership on the same day the membership was set to renew. There were no indications that this could not be done on the same day as the renewal date. I was still charged $69 for the membership fee. I emailed to request a refund and they refused and reiterated their return policy to me twice advising I would receive no refund. There was no empathy and no willingness to escalate my request.

20) “I let him know that this was ridiculous…”

My wife and I signed up for 23andMe back in 2020. We utilized the 23andMe+ subscription for the first year as it was included with our purchase. We have had nothing but issues since. In 2021 we forgot to cancel the subscription despite not utilizing the app. We realized that was our fault, cancelled and moved on. We were then charged again in 2022 where we had to reach out to customer service who showed we did not have an active subscription or the ability to cancel anything. We were refunded and ensured the account was closed. We were now charged again today, 2023 for the $69 subscription fee. I reached out to customer service and spoke with someone name Renz via chat. He was very dismissive and rude because he could not verify our account through the app chat so he said he would send an email with further instruction. Despite what I had said in my messages to him, his email was a template that basically just told us, sorry, no refunds. I let him know that this was ridiculous and has been going on for entirely too long to which he replied, again… I would like to reiterate there are no refunds. Here we are out another $69 and have not logged in to this app to actually use in years.

21) “I have tried to speak with a supervisor, but they said they have none.”

23andMe charged me for a year of service on 10/29/22 for the amount of approximately $14.99. Unbeknownst to me, they put me on auto renewal. On 10/29/23, they charged me the amount of $69. When I called and said that I did not agree to the increased charge and haven’t used the service in a year and want it canceled, they flatly said there are no refunds. They claimed to have sent me a renewal notice amongst the bombardment of emails I already get from them. I open these, but I did not see one for a renewal. I have tried to speak with a supervisor, but they said they have none. I also tried to call, but I cannot speak to anyone about my account, only about “ancestry kits.” I also went to their website, but there is no easy way to cancel or contact them. I feel they are engaging in unfair business practices and though I once had respect for them, I no longer do given their practice of putting a customer on auto renewal and then upping the price considerably to what anyone would expect. When asked about this increased price, they said they added other services to justify the cost, which means they have changed the nature of our original contract since I did not agree to the new services and thus breached their own renewal policy and our so called “agreement.” They are refusing to refund my money and initially refused to escalate my complaint. I imagine they are doing this to a large number of their customers. Please help me stop their unfair pricing scheme. Thanks!

22) This has to be illegal, right??

Yearly fee has been $29 the last several years. Payment made by my PayPal account. Today they charged $69 without my knowledge or approval. I called and waited on hold forever and finally spoke to someone. After 30 minutes on the phone with her they still refuse to refund. Stating “they have a no refund policy.” Well lady, I have a policy as well “don’t charge me for something I did not authorize.” Got nowhere. Charge stands. This has to be illegal, right??

23: “23andMe are claiming they sent a reminder email 30 days before renewal, however no email was ever received”

On Dec 1, 2023 my credit card was charged $93.65 for a yearly subscription. This was charged to a credit card that was previously expired. I did not update my credit card information through 23andMe and did not authorize them to charge my new credit card. 23andMe are claiming they sent a reminder email 30 days before renewal, however no email was ever received. I have checked all inboxes, spam, etc. I have advised them no email was received and advised them they were never authorized to charge my new credit card however they have refused any sort of reimbursement. I have purchased products not only for myself and for family members, but this flat out refusal is absolutely wrong, especially when authorization was not provided to charge a new credit card.

24) “I made them aware that this is illegal…”

Without previous notification (I looked all over my email including spam) and without my consent, I was charged by 23andMe a renewal membership of $69 dollars. The first year I paid under $30 and I was told I would be notified before renewal which it did not happened. I did not received an email nor a notification from the app. In California this is an illegal practice. I called and complaint and I told them I want a refund, and I made them aware that this is illegal and they still said that they will not be refunding my money.

25) It might be ‘just’?? $29 but this is theft.

23andMe charged me $29 to renew a membership without giving me notice. I cancelled the membership as soon as I noticed the charge. (Mind you I have not used their services in months) I asked to be refunded since the membership was canceled a week later and I will not be using it and they refused. It might be “just”?? $29 but this is theft. I want a full refund. It’s unfortunate because I had three family members I was going to buy kits for for the holidays but this experience led me to change my mind. This is not customer service.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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