On Wednesday morning, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lodged a complaint against tech giant Amazon, alleging that the company engaged in deceptive practices to enroll consumers in its paid programs. The complaint asserts that Amazon's leadership intentionally overlooked modifications that would have simplified user navigation of the company's Prime programs. Instead, they employed manipulative techniques known as "dark patterns" to mislead customers, thereby violating the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act.
FTC Files Complaint Against Amazon for 'Manipulative' Prime Subscription Tactics https://t.co/l3wqaihBrs
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) June 23, 2023
FTC Chair Lina M. Khan commented on the matter, stating, "Amazon deceived individuals and ensnared them in recurring subscriptions without their consent, causing frustration and significant financial losses." This criticism comes as no surprise, given that Khan publicly entered the antitrust arena in 2017 with her Yale law journal article titled "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox."
Amazon boasts a global membership exceeding 200 million individuals who pay $14.99 per month for its Prime membership program. However, customers find it difficult to make purchases without subscribing to the program. Additionally, the checkout button presented to customers fails to clearly indicate that selecting it will result in a Prime membership. Amazon deliberately complicated user navigation by redirecting the cancellation process to multiple websites offering discounted deals to entice users to continue their subscription.
The complaint was officially filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, with a unanimous 3-0 Commission vote authorizing the action. Internal documents obtained by Insider revealed that Amazon internally referred to the project as "Iliad" and that cancellations reportedly decreased by 14% following its launch in 2017.
Amazon's contentious relationship with the FTC is no secret. Just this month, the company reportedly agreed to pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle allegations of violating child privacy laws through the storage of children's voice and location data recorded by the Alexa voice assistant. Overall, Amazon's apparent disregard for consumer privacy and ongoing attempts to deceive them into purchasing more of its products are worrisome.