FTC is suing Amazon over predatory Prime subscription tactics

  • Save on computer

FTC sues Amazon over dark patterns

  • Save on computer

Photo credit: Ian Hutchinson

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing Amazon for predatory Prime subscription tactics. Here’s the latest.

In the complaint, filed Wednesday, June 21, the FTC alleges that Amazon knowingly tricked customers into signing up for Amazon Prime by using “dark patterns.” Dark patterns are web design tactics aimed at guiding users towards a specific outcome that the company wants and that the person may not have achieved without influence – in this case, signing up for Prime.

According to the FTC, Amazon’s checkout process offers customers multiple ways to subscribe to Prime, rather than simply completing a non-subscription purchase. It is also claimed that Amazon has built in several hurdles in the opt-out process to confuse navigation. Ultimately, if these claims prove true, it means that the Amazon Music Prime subscriber count may be inflated.

“Amazon has been tricking people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, which has not only frustrated users but also cost them a lot of money.” adds FTC Chair Lina Khan in her statement on the legal action. “These manipulative tactics harm consumers and law-abiding businesses alike.”

The complaint alleges that the FTC has made multiple attempts by Amazon to prevent compulsory registrations on its platform, but that Amazon has failed to make the necessary changes. Amazon claims the FTC’s claims are false and that it’s easy to enroll and cancel an Amazon Prime membership.

The FTC has increasingly scrutinized the use of dark patterns on the Internet in recent years. Epic Games faced a whopping $520 million fine for what the FTC said was a confusing operation that tricked people into buying in-game cosmetics. Amazon Prime costs $139 per year, but a more expensive monthly subscription is available.

The lawsuit against Amazon is heavily redacted, but alleges that Amazon’s business practices violate the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. You can see the full document Here.