Federal Trade Commission sues Amazon over Prime subscriptions

The FTC said that for years Amazon "complicated the cancellation process for Prime subscribers who sought to end their membership."

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The Federal Trade Commission is suing Amazon.com, Inc. for deceiving customers into unknowingly enrolling in Amazon Prime. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges Amazon with using “manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as ‘dark patterns’ to trick consumers” into automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions.

The FTC said that for years Amazon “complicated the cancellation process for Prime subscribers who sought to end their membership.”

“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” Lina M. Khan, FTC chair, said. “These manipulative tactics harm consumers and law-abiding businesses alike. The FTC will continue to vigorously protect Americans from “dark patterns” and other unfair or deceptive practices in digital markets.”

The Commission voted 3-0 to file the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Amazon.

In the complaint, the FTC said that “Amazon was aware of consumers being nonconsensually enrolled” and knew the process was complex and confusing to cancel Prime. Amazon is also being charged with an attempt to delay and hinder the FTC’s investigation in multiple instances.

Amazon responded to the FTC by saying that the “claims are false on the facts and the law” and that “by design [they] make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership.”

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