Spotify has ended a test that required its family plan subscribers to verify their location, or risk losing accessing to its music streaming service. According to recent reports, the company sent out emails to its “Premium for Family” customers that asked them to confirm their locations using GPS. The idea here is that some customers may have been sharing Family Plans, even though they’re not related, as a means of paying less for Spotify by splitting the plan’s support for multiple users. And Spotify wanted to bust them.
Spiegel Online and Quartz first reported this news on Thursday.
Of course, as these reports pointed out, asking users to confirm a GPS location is a poor means of verification. Families often have members who live or work outside the home — they may live abroad, have divorced or separated parents, have kids in college, travel for work or any other number of reasons.
But technically, these sorts of situations are prohibited by Spotify’s family plan terms — the rules require all members to share a physical address. That rule hadn’t really been as strictly enforced before, so many didn’t realize they had broken it when they added members who don’t live at home.
Customers were also uncomfortable with how Spotify wanted to verify their location — instead of entering a mailing address for the main account, for instance, they were asked for their exact (GPS) location.
The emails also threatened that failure to verify the account this way could cause them to lose access to the service.
Family plans are often abused by those who use them as a loophole for paying full price. For example, a few years ago, Amazon decided to cut down on Prime members sharing their benefits, because they found these were being broadly shared outside immediate families. In its case, it limited sharing to two adults who could both authorize and use the payment cards on file, and allowed them to create other, more limited profiles for the kids.
Spotify could have done something similar. It could have asked Family Plan adult subscribers to re-enter their payment card information to confirm their account, or it could have designated select slots for child members with a different set of privileges to make sharing less appealing.
Maybe it will now reconsider how verification works, given the customer backlash.
We understand the verification emails were only a small-scale test of a new system, not something Spotify is rolling out to all users. The emails were sent out in only four of Spotify’s markets, including the U.S.
And the test only ran for a short time before Spotify shut it down.
Reached for comment, a Spotify spokesperson confirmed this, saying:
“Spotify is currently testing improvements to the user experience of Premium for Family with small user groups in select markets. We are always testing new products and experiences at Spotify, but have no further news to share regarding this particular feature test at this time.”
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