Complaint Against Tech Giant Amazon

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued and filed a complaint against tech giant Amazon, saying that deceptive user interface designs are used to trick millions of people into signing up for their Prime service. The complaint, filed in the US District Court for Washington, also sings a similar tune, alleging that Amazon keeps users subscribed even when they wish to cancel.

This is the peak of a long investigation into the Amazon’s practices surrounding Prime, complete with testimonies from individuals like company founder Jeff Bezos. It also marks the most decisive step taken by the FTC against business practices that are harmful to consumers by employing psychological trickery.

By targeting Prime, they also directly hit a large earner for Amazon. Amazon defends itself saying that the complaints were “false on the facts and the law”, and that:

We also find it concerning that the FTC announced this lawsuit without notice to us, in the mists 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 providing our case in court.”

The FTC, however, says that Amazon makes cancelling subscriptions purposefully much harder than signing up for them, calling it an “Iliad process” referring to Homer’s epic about the Trojan War, and more specifically, how long and complicated it is, saying customers have to “navigate a four-page, six click, fifteen option cancellation process”.

In contrast, the process of signing up for Prime requires just two clicks. The FTC says:

Specifically, Amazon sues manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user interface designs known as dark patterns to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically renewing Prime subscriptions.”

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