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Udacity Makes it Harder for Learners to Cancel Free Trials

In response to coronavirus, the $1B e-learning startup Udacity started offering one-month free trials with a “cancel anytime” policy. But a month later, they’re dragging their feet to process cancellations, resulting in undue charges for learners.

Update (May 5, 2020): In addition, Max in the comments notes that Udacity changed its Nanodegree refund policy. Nanodegrees used to have a 7-days refund window. But as of yesterday, they only have a 2-days refund window, except in the EU where it’s 14 days, likely because of EU’s stronger consumer protection laws.

Cancellations Then: Two Clicks and Done

I’ve completed several Nanodegrees over the years and rather enjoyed them. You can see a couple of my certificates below.

Two Udacity Nanodegree certificats side by side
My Nanodegree Certificates: Front-End Development & Intro to Self-Driving Cars

So when in April 2019, Udacity launched a Nanodegree about Data Structures and Algorithms, a subject I’m particularly interested in, I decided to give it a shot. The Nanodegree included a free trial. By the end of the free trial, I had completed all the content available: the Nanodegree was still in development, so content was being released on a schedule. I didn’t want to wait, so I decided to cancel my free trial.

cancelling a Nanodegree used to be a two-click process 

Back then, the cancellation process was simple: I went to my payment settings, clicked Cancel, and confirmed. So cancelling a Nanodegree used to be a two-click process. Several of my colleagues have confirmed this. But things have changed.

Cancellations Now: About a Week

In March, Udacity joined the chorus of companies offering free content because of the pandemic. More specifically, during the last week of March, Udacity began offering one-month Nanodegree free trials. The offer was later extended through April.

Like many, I jumped on the opportunity to try one of Udacity’s newer Nanodegrees. I enrolled in Intro to Machine Learning with PyTorch with the intention of making the most out of the free month and then potentially moving to a paid subscription.

But three weeks into the Nanodegree, a colleague who’d also enrolled in one told me he was having a hard time cancelling his free trial. Not wanting to be charged unduly, I decided to also cancel mine. But this proved to be a challenge.

First Cancellation Attempt

The first time I tried to cancel, it was via my mobile phone, since I was on the move. I logged into Udacity, went to my settings, and clicked Cancel. But instead of prompting me to confirm, the site said that to cancel, I’d have to chat with a Udacity advisor. I waited two hours for an advisor, but as you can see below, they never showed up.

Trying to cancel a Nanodegree via chat
Waiting for a Udacity advisor…

Second Cancellation Attempt

The second time I tried to cancel, it was via my desktop computer. This time, the site said that to cancel, I’d have to email Udacity. Reluctantly, I did. Anticipating friction, I stated in my email that I wasn’t interested in other offers — I just wanted to cancel.

it took five days and six emails for my cancellation to go through 

Here’s the email exchange timeline:

  • Day 1: I email Udacity requesting the cancellation of my free trial. They send me a generic email stating that I’ll likely hear back from them within two days.
  • Day 2: They offer me a discount to keep my Nanodegree subscription. I decline and reiterate that I just want to cancel.
  • Day 3: Unprompted, they send me the same generic email as before, stating that I’ll likely hear back from them within two days.
  • Day 4: Again, they send me the same generic email.
  • Day 5: Finally, they confirm the cancellation of my free trial.

In total, it took five days and six emails for my cancellation to go through. And that’s because I responded immediately. If I’d waited the next day, it might have taken a week, like it did for a colleague of mine, and I would have been charged.

Growing Complaints

Udacity chose to replace quick, automatic cancellations with slow, manual ones in an attempt to retain learners through inconvenience 

It’s now been over a month since Udacity started offering one-month free trials. So naturally, many learners are trying to cancel their subscription, only to discover it’s not as easy as expected. Some have taken to social media to voice their frustration.

I think that the dominant feeling across these posts is incredulity: incredulity at the fact that, at some point, Udacity chose to replace quick, automatic cancellations with slow, manual ones in an attempt to retain learners through inconvenience — an issue compounded by the ongoing pandemic and the resulting economic distress.

How to Avoid Being Charged

To avoid being charged, here’s what you can do:

  • Cancel Early: For some learners, including one of my colleagues, the cancellation process took over a week. So take that into account when deciding when to cancel.
  • Deauthorize PayPal: If you registered using PayPal, go to PayPal’s website, log into your account, access the settings, open the Payments tab, click on Manage your Automatic Payments, and remove Udacity as a pre-approved merchant.
  • Call Udacity: If you’re short of time, try to call Udacity to cancel. Here’s their phone number: (+1) 888-908-2859. Keep in mind that charges may apply.

If all else fails and you’re unduly charged, ask Udacity for a refund: if you cancelled your free trial in time, you should get one, although it might take several weeks to arrive. If solving things amicably is not an option anymore, consider filing a dispute with your credit card issuer, your bank, or PayPal.

Comments
10

  1. Avatar

    Eric Hrahsel

    Thanks for the warning. Better stay away from udacity.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Raihansyah Ramadhan

    Did the free trial requires you to submit a credit card?

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Yes – either credit card or PayPal.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Max

    And they also reduced the refund window to only 2 days, making it almost impossible to judge the quality of the full nanodegree:
    “Refund window to change from 7 days to 2 days effective starting 5/4/20 at 12:00 Pacific Time.” (https://udacity.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360015466632-What-is-your-refund-or-cancellation-policy-)

    Reply
    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Manoel Cortes Mendez

      Thanks. I added a note about this in the intro.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    Palak

    What will happen if I cancel free trial after my earning nanodegree? If my earned nanodegree vanish or it will be there?

    Reply
  5. Avatar

    Karthik

    Thanks for this detailed post. I was about to enroll in a course for 1 month free. This is scary. I will avoid a free trial with udacity.

    Reply
  6. Avatar

    Don

    How did you like the Data Structure program? I was considering taking it as well

    Reply
  7. Avatar

    Rohit

    Do correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the cancellation policy is different now. You can now cancel with a few clicks

    Are people still reporting the same issues as of 19th May 2020?

    Reply

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