Amazon has been sued by the Federal Trade Commission for what the U.S. regulatory agency described as “years-long” manipulations of its Prime subscription service.
The tech giant engaged in a “years-long effort to enroll consumers into its Prime program without their consent while knowingly making it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscriptions to Prime,” the FTC said in a press release. (Read the full complaint HERE.)
The company used deceptive designs known as “dark patterns,” the FTC alleges, which aim to trick consumers into enrolling in Prime subscription plans set to automatically renew.
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Amazon only selectively reports data for Prime, which offers benefits including video programming, faster delivery of packages and discounts on Whole Foods purchases. In 2021, then-CEO Jeff Bezos (who segued to the executive chairman role in 2022, handing the CEO reins to Andy Jassy) said Prime had passed 200 million global subscribers.
The FTC has taken a tough line on tech companies during the administration of President Biden. Agency Chair Lina M. Khan, who took on the role in 2021, has focused on imposing limits on tech firms, enduring backlash from free-market-oriented Republicans.
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” Khan said in the press release. “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.”
Amazon did not have an immediate response to the suit.
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