FTC sues Amazon for 'unfairly charging' consumers with Prime memberships

Amazon logo on orange wall
(Image credit: Amazon)

What you need to know

  • The FTC is suing Amazon over "digital dark practices" on its platform.
  • Allegedly, Amazon has created turmoil for consumers by not giving clear indications if they are paying for their items only or if a Prime membership is entwined, as well.
  • Amazon apparently has created a "labyrinth-like process" when consumers try to cancel the membership they didn't consent to.
  • The court case is pending further action in the State of Washington. 

Amazon is in the hot seat once again as the FTC takes action against its alleged "digital dark practices." The FTC announced it has filed a lawsuit against Amazon for enrolling its consumers into its Prime membership without consent. Enrolling customers in a way such as this allegedly violates the FTC Act, as the government body stated in its post. 

Through its investigation, the FTC discovered Amazon used "dark patterns" to get more people to enroll by bombarding them with numerous chances to sign up for Prime. The FTC also notes that "consumers who attempted to cancel Prime faced a labyrinth-like process."

The FTC used the $14.99 a month Prime membership as an example. It states that the ability to purchase your items without signing up for Prime was "difficult for consumers to find." Apparently, Amazon has not created clear buttons so customers checking out can know if they are only buying their requested items or if a Prime membership is attached to it — along with the recurring fee.

Amazon's alleged in-house nickname for this difficult process for getting around the Prime membership is "Iliad," in reference to a lengthy ancient Greek epic poem. The FTC's complaint suggests Amazon already knew of the difficult process consumers faced when trying to get away from the Prime offers as well as how hard it was canceling the subscription afterward. The company also apparently did not try to take "meaningful steps to address the issues until well after they learned of the FTC's investigation."

This may be in accordance with Amazon's practice in the U.S. Back in July 2022, Amazon simplified its cancelation process of Prime memberships in Europe after many stated it was unclear.

Not only is Amazon potentially facing one violation through the FTC Act, but it may also face a violation of ROSCA (Restore Online Shopper's Confidence Act).

The case is currently pending any further action in court in the State of Washington.

Amazon has also come under fire by the FTC earlier this month. The FTC took action initially at the beginning of June over Amazon's misuse of sensitive consumer data such as voice and videos through its Ring cameras. According to Reuters, Amazon agreed to pay $25 million in settlements over the allegations that it violated children's privacy rights. The company also agreed to pay $5.8 million for other privacy violations.

After reaching out to Amazon, the company informed Android Central of its stance on the FTC's pending lawsuit. 

"The FTC’s claims are false on the facts and the law. The truth is that customers love Prime, and by design we make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership. As with all our products and services, we continually listen to customer feedback and look for ways to improve the customer experience, and we look forward to the facts becoming clear as this case plays out. We also find it concerning that the FTC announced this lawsuit without notice to us, in the midst of our discussions with FTC staff members to ensure they understand the facts, context, and legal issues, and before we were able to have a dialog with the Commissioners themselves before they filed a lawsuit. While the absence of that normal course engagement is extremely disappointing, we look forward to proving our case in court."

Nickolas Diaz
News Writer

Nickolas is always excited about tech and getting his hands on it. Writing for him can vary from delivering the latest tech story to scribbling in his journal. When Nickolas isn't hitting a story, he's often grinding away at a game or chilling with a book in his hand.