Amazon “Sabotaged” User Attempts to Cancel Prime, FTC Alleges

Prime cancellations dropped 14% in 2017 after the shady tactics were introduced, says the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission is suing Amazon, claiming the ecommerce giant used shady practices to get customers to stay subscribed to Prime even when the customers were trying to cancel their subscription.

According to the FTC, data shows that the “dark patterns” Amazon “sabotaged” customers with paid off, with 14% higher retention rates after implimention.

The FTC has another case lined up, too. Google has filed a complaint with FTC against Microsoft, claiming it has documented anticompetitive practices from the computer company.

Amazon's Prime Subscription Process Is In Question

Amazon complicated its cancellation process intentionally, according to the FTC itself, which violates the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act.

“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money” -FTC Chair Lina Khan, in a CNBC statement.

The FTC also says that its complaint details multiple instances in which Amazon could have changed its allegedly coercive practices and instead chose to continue them.

Amazon spokesperson Heather Layman disagrees on no uncertain terms, saying that the allegations are “false on the facts and the law” and that “customers love Prime.”

What Did Amazon Allegedly Do?

According to the complaint, Amazon's missteps include making it harder for a non-Prime customer to buy products.

When users were moving through the checkout process, Amazon gave them a button that instructed users to finish their transaction without clearly saying that this button would be signing the user up for a recurring subscription as well.

According to one document, the number of Prime cancellations dropped 14% in 2017 in the wake of the new cancellation process being introduced.

This is the third case that the FTC has brought against Amazon in the last month. Towards the end of May, the company settled for more than $30 million in a case concerning allegations of data privacy failures in Amazon's Alexa and Ring products.

Google's Filing an FTC Complaint Against Microsoft

Google has filed its own FTC complaint. It's alleging that Microsoft used the licensing terms of Office 365 to lock clients into Azure contracts. Google sees this as unfair anticompetitive practices in the cloud storage and cloud computing industries.

Google's comments are a response to a March 2023 call from the FTC for information about security issues and competition within the cloud market.

Earlier this month, the FTC levelled a $20 million fine against Microsoft for illegal data storage practices.

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In other words, with overlooking its beef with Amazon, the FTC will have a lot to keep it busy in the coming months when it comes to big tech giants and their influence over the millions of customers who find themselves with little protection aside from regulatory agencies.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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