The Federal Trade Commission, after fining Microsoft $20 million a few days ago for violating online child safety rules, is going after another company, Amazon. This time, the FTC accuses Amazon of making people sign up for their Prime subscription service without their consent.
The FTC's press release states:
In a complaint filed today, the FTC charges that Amazon has knowingly duped millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling in Amazon Prime. 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 also claims that Amazon made it too difficult for people to cancel their Prime subscriptions, stating that the company's leadership "slowed or rejected changes that would’ve made it easier for users to cancel Prime." The FTC says this was because Amazon felt these kinds of changes would adversely affect its revenues.
While the actual complaint does contain a lot of redacted content, the FTC claims that Amazon used what is labeled as "dark patterns” to get consumers to sign up for Prime without their approval, which is in violation of the FTC Act, and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.
The FTC added:
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.
Amazon also makes the procedure to cancel a Prime subscription difficult because it gives customers multiple avenues to continue, including offers to stay with the service at discounted prices, according to the complaint.
So far, Amazon has not responded to the FTC lawsuit. The government's move comes on the same day that the retailer announced the dates for Amazon Prime Day 2023, which will give Prime customers special discounts on millions of items from July 11-13.