I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Netflix's Sweet Class Action Boondoggle

I received an e-mail today about my options in a recent class action lawsuit against Netflix. The lawsuit:

A class action lawsuit entitled Chavez v. Netflix, Inc. was filed in San Francisco Superior Court (case number CGC-04-434884) on September 23, 2004. The lawsuit alleges that Netflix failed to provide "unlimited" DVD rentals and "one day delivery" as promised in its marketing materials. Netflix has denied any wrongdoing or liability. The parties have reached a settlement that they believe is in the best interests of the company and its subscribers.

So how does this benefit me, a Netflix member for the past 6 years?

Current Netflix Members: If you enrolled in a paid membership before January 15, 2005 and were a member on October 19, 2005, you are eligible to receive a free one-month upgrade in service level. For example, if you are on the 3 DVDs at-a-time program, you will be upgraded to the 4 DVDs at-a-time program for one month. There will be no price increase during the upgraded month.

Well, that’s kind of nice. Later I’m told I don’t have to sign up for the upgrade until February 17, 2006. Great, that gives me plenty of time to choose a good month where I can actually watch some movies. Yet something smells fishy. Read on, Barry. Read on.

After the benefit period ends, the new or upgraded level of service will continue automatically (following an email reminder) and you will be billed accordingly, unless you cancel or modify your subscription. You can cancel or modify your subscription at any time.

Oh, so basically I can take advantage of the free upgrade, but Netflix will assume I want to retain that upgrade regardless of the price and the base reason I’m taking the upgrade in the first place. A Netflix version of trying to remember to cancel that automatically mailed BMG CD. Granted, they claim they will be notifying with an e-mail before the charge is incurred, but this still seems like a waste of a class action lawsuit. I suppose that is redundant.

Furthermore, I’m actually on a non-existent plan. As Netflix’s offerings changed, they automatically grandfathered me and my two-at-a-time unlimited plan. Reading the above implies that I would upgrade to the three-at-a-time unlimited plan for one month and then modify my subscription at the end of that time. My guess is that my modification choices will no longer include the two-at-a-time unlimited plan. Likely I’d be stuck with the two-at-a-time with a four-per-month limit.

Come to think of it, since that plan is around $3 less per month and I hardly watch any movies it may be just right for me. Except that I’d be paying over $3 per rental. Silly.