federal trade commission sued Amazon on Wednesday for illegally prompting consumers to sign up for its Prime service and then preventing them from canceling subscriptions, the most aggressive action ever taken against the company by the agency’s chairman, Leena Khan,
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, argues that Amazon used design tactics known as “dark patterns” on its website to trick people into subscribing to Prime, the FTC said in a release. Motivated to take And when users wanted to cancel, they had to go through a byzantine process to do so.
“Amazon tricked people and tricked them into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but costing them a lot of money,” Ms Khan said in a statement.
The suit was the first time the FTC took Amazon to court under Ms. Khan, who rose to fame with a viral criticism of the company and which is probing the e-commerce giant. Ms. Khan has said that the power that big tech companies have over online commerce requires regulators to be more aggressive and have started taking action against them.
Under Ms. Khan, the FTC continued a lawsuit against Meta, arguing that it cut out nascent competitors by buying Instagram and WhatsApp, and blocked Microsoft’s blockbuster $69 billion deal for video game publisher Activision Blizzard. filed a lawsuit to
Ms. Khan has not yet brought the kind of comprehensive antitrust case against Amazon that critics of the company demand. The FTC’s Antitrust Bureau has been investigating Amazon’s practices for years, and observers are watching closely how it will proceed with its findings.
The lawsuit is part of a larger effort by regulators to limit the power of tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Meta, Facebook’s parent company. The Justice Department has filed several in recent years disbelief matters against google.
Amazon recently settled cases with the FTC that began prior to Ms. Khan’s tenure. The company agreed to pay $25 million last month to settle FTC claims that Amazon’s Alexa home assistant devices illegally collected children’s data. The agency also settled another privacy case with Amazon’s Ring home security subsidiary.
On Wednesday, the FTC said Amazon had made it particularly difficult to buy products in its stores without a Prime membership at checkout. The agency said Amazon made it difficult for consumers to find the page that allowed them to cancel service. Once he got it, Amazon bombarded him with offers with no intention of changing his mind.
The lawsuit follows years of media and activist attention on how difficult it is to cancel Prime. In a 2021 complaint to the District of Columbia attorney general, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group, said that Amazon used manipulation to “obfuscate the intentions of users who intend to cancel Amazon Prime subscriptions”. The design was used.
The FTC has recently resolved to crack down on designs aimed at harassing consumers or thwarting their efforts to cancel a service.
“While dark patterns can stealthily manipulate consumers, these practices are on the FTC’s radar,” the agency said in a 2022 report.