FTC sues Amazon for enrolling customers in Prime without consent

The Federal Trade Commission of the United States announced that it sued e-commerce giant Amazon for allegedly duping consumers into enrolling in its paid subscription service Amazon Prime without their consent, and making it difficult for them to cancel it.

‘’Specifically, Amazon used manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions’’, the FTC said in its complaint filed on Wednesday.

‘’During Amazon’s online checkout process, consumers were faced with numerous opportunities to subscribe to Amazon Prime at $14.99/month,’’ the government agency said. ‘’In many cases, the option to purchase items on Amazon without subscribing to Prime was more difficult for consumers to locate. In some cases, the button presented to consumers to complete their transaction did not clearly state that in choosing that option they were also agreeing to join Prime for a recurring subscription.’

In addition, the FTC is also accusing Amazon of making the subscription cancellation process more difficult for consumers in an effort to stop them from ending their membership. The company executives slowed or turned down changes that would’ve simplified the process because they impacted Amazon’s bottom line, the agency said.

According to the complaint, while Amazon had knowledge of consumers being enrolled in its service without consent and that the cancellation process is complex and confusing, the company didn’t take any measures to address the issues until they became aware of the FTC probe. In addition, the government agency is accusing the company of making multiple attempts to postpone and hinder the investigation.

Following the complaint, an Amazon spokesperson said: ‘’The FTC’s claims are false on the facts and the law. The truth is that customers love Prime, and by design we make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership. As with all our products and services, we continually listen to customer feedback and look for ways to improve the customer experience, and we look forward to the facts becoming clear as this case plays out.‘’

’We also find it concerning that the FTC announced this lawsuit without notice to us, in the midst of our discussions with FTC staff members to ensure they understand the facts, context, and legal issues, and before we were able to have a dialog with the Commissioners themselves before they filed a lawsuit,’’ the spokesperson said. ‘’While the absence of that normal course engagement is extremely disappointing, we look forward to proving our case in court.

Written by Maya Robertson


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