BetterHelp customers begin receiving refund notices from $7.8M data privacy settlement, FTC says

NEW YORK — Many current and former BetterHelp customers have begun receiving refund eligibility notices spanning from a $7.8 million settlement reached with the online therapy provider last year over allegations that it shared sensitive health data with advertisers.

In 2023, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged California-based BetterHelp with disclosing consumer data it had promised to keep private — including information about mental health challenges — with companies like Facebook and Snapchat for advertising purposes. User emails and IP addresses were also shared in this way, the FTC said.

BetterHelp agreed to settle the FTC’s allegations in March 2023. Now, payments will be making their way to impacted consumers. Some 800,000 people began receiving notices on Monday saying they are eligible for refunds, the FTC announced this week.

The amount of the settlement payments will be split evenly, an agency spokesperson confirmed to The Associated Press, divving out to just under $10 for each recipient.

According to the FTC, payments will go to those who signed up and paid for services from a BetterHelp website — which also covers offerings on platforms including MyTherapist, Faithful Counseling and Price Counseling — between August 2017 and December 2020.

Eligible consumers should receive emails from Ankura Consulting Group, an independent redress administrator, about their payment options. For those who do not take any action, the default payment will come via PayPal at their email address — but consumers can opt into different methods, such as Zelle or a paper check, through June 10, the FTC said.

The AP reached out to BetterHelp for comment Wednesday. At the time of last year’s agreement, the company said the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing and that the behavior for which it was sanctioned is standard for the industry.

Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, however, maintained that BetterHelp betrayed consumers’ most personal health information for profit.

“When a person struggling with mental health issues reaches out for help, they do so in a moment of vulnerability and with an expectation that professional counseling services will protect their privacy,” Levine said in a March 2023 statement.

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