The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says Amazon allegedly used dark patterns to trick millions of users into signing up for its Prime program and trick them into making it as difficult as possible to cancel auto-renewing subscriptions.
In the complaintthe FTC says Amazon’s deceptive techniques manipulated consumers into signing up for Prime subscriptions without even knowing it, violating both the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act and the FTC.
The company reportedly used dark patterns throughout the online payment and subscription cancellation processes, constantly urging customers to subscribe to Amazon Prime for $14.99 per month while offering the option to end the transaction without signing up for Prime, which is difficult to locate.
Additionally, the page displayed before completing the transaction button did not provide users with clear information about including a recurring Prime subscription.
The FTC further alleges that Amazon implemented a cancellation process that deterred customers from successfully calling their Prime membership. This was described by Amazon internally as “Iliad“, a name alluding to Homer’s epic poem detailing the decade-long Trojan War.
According to the complaint, customers attempting to cancel their Prime membership faced a complicated process. They first had to locate the undo feed, which was deliberately made difficult by Amazon.
Subsequently, they were redirected to several pages offering discounted subscription extensions, the ability to turn off auto-renewal, or the choice to keep the service. Customers could only cancel recurring Prime subscriptions after navigating to these pages.
“Amazon tricked and tricked people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them a lot of money,” said FTC Chairman Lina Khan.
“These manipulative tactics harm consumers and law-abiding businesses. The FTC will continue to vigorously protect Americans from ‘dark patterns’ and other unfair or deceptive practices in digital marketplaces.”
Amazon will also have to pay a $30 million fine to settle allegations of privacy breaches related to the operation of its Alexa virtual assistant and Ring video doorbell services.
The FTC in May accused Amazon’s Ring home security camera subsidiary of engaging in unlawful surveillance of customers and failing to stop hackers from taking control of their cameras.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and FTC also accused Amazon of violating children’s online privacy laws by not deleting voice recordings and geolocation information on parent requests. .
“As part of the settlement, we have agreed to make a small change to our already solid practices and will delete profiles of children who have been inactive for more than 18 months, unless a parent or guardian decides to keep them” , Amazon told BleepingComputer in May. .
An Amazon spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the FTC’s Amazon Prime complaint when contacted by BleepingComputer earlier today.