Why Does Spotify Keep Ripping People Off?

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.