The Federal Trade Commission is suing Amazon for allegedly duping millions of consumers into signing up for its paid Prime subscription service.
The legal complaint, filed Wednesday, also claims that the company made it difficult to cancel the paid subscription. According to internal documents obtained by Insider, the company called the drawn-out, convoluted process “Iliad,” after Homer’s nearly 16,000-line epic poem.
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan in a statement. “These manipulative tactics harm consumers and law-abiding businesses alike.”
On Reddit, consumers weren’t happy. Some responded to the news by sharing their own experiences, while others lamented the service’s declining quality.
One commenter shared that their elderly parents unknowingly signed up for Prime after they clicked on an enticing free shipping offer. What they didn’t see, the Redditor said, was the fine print that tied the deal to a Prime membership.
In a lawsuit filed today, the FTC says Amazon has used deceptive "dark patterns" for years to trick users into buying Prime subscriptions.— Rob Freund (@RobertFreundLaw) June 21, 2023
Amazon allegedly used a process internally called "Iliad" to make it hard to cancel. pic.twitter.com/EoNChUXuI1
“To make matters worse, Amazon made it difficult for them to find a way to contact customer service, burying the information on their website,” they wrote. “Ultimately, they had to call to cancel. It's unfortunate that Amazon employs such questionable tactics.”
Other consumers noted that the service, which offers perks like free two-day shipping for $139 a year or $14.99 a month, has also declined in quality.
“Amazon is well down the path of enshittification,” a commenter wrote, referring to the word used to describe online platforms’ gradual degradation.
Many agreed with that assessment, complaining about Amazon’s delayed shipping times, the proliferation of knockoffs, deceitful third-party vendors, and its misleading user interface.
5. Our proposed "click to cancel" rule would require that firms make it as easy to cancel a subscription as it is to sign up for one.— Lina Khan (@linakhanFTC) June 21, 2023
We're collecting public comment on the proposal through Thursday 6/23. Anyone can submit a comment here:https://t.co/iWeNjLD3Uj
In a statement provided to news outlets, Amazon pushed back against the FTC’s claims, calling the accusations "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," the statement reads. "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."
Wednesday’s lawsuit marks the federal regulator’s third action against Amazon in less than a month. In May, Amazon paid more than $30 million to settle two FTC privacy complaints related to the company’s Alex and Ring products.
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