The US has leveled accusations against Amazon, claiming that the company tricked customers into signing up for automatically renewing Prime subscriptions and created obstacles for cancelation.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer rights watchdog, filed a lawsuit, citing website designs that were allegedly “manipulative.” Amazon refuted the charges, stating that they are “false on the facts and the law.”
More than 200 million people subscribe to Amazon Prime globally. The service, which offers shipping perks, access to streaming movies and more, costs $139 a year or $14.99 monthly in the US and £95 per year in the UK.
The FTC said Amazon used website designs that pushed customers into agreeing to enrol in Prime and have the subscription automatically renew as they were making purchases.
The company attempted to make it difficult for users to opt out of auto-enrolment because “those changes would also negatively affect Amazon’s bottom line”, the agency alleged in the complaint, filed in federal court in Seattle.
According to the FTC, Amazon imposed a lengthy procedure on consumers who wished to cancel, which involved a “four-page, six-click, fifteen-option” process internally referred to as “Iliad” as a nod to the Greek classic depicting the “long, arduous Trojan War.”
Despite making modifications to the cancellation process shortly before filing the lawsuit, the FTC declared that Amazon’s tactics violated laws intended to safeguard shoppers.
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said.
The FTC is seeking a court order to force Amazon to change its practices, as well as financial penalties in an unspecified amount.
Amazon said it had been in the middle of discussing the issues with the agency when the lawsuit was filed without notice.
“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,” the company said.
The FTC has repeatedly warned online firms against using “dark patterns” to manipulate shoppers.
It had been investigating Amazon’s Prime programme since 2021.