Amazon: Dark Pattern? Of Course Not

January 28, 2021

Consumer advocates have noticed Amazon is not one to make it very simple to stop paying it money. Yahoo Finance shares the (paywalled) Bloomberg article, “Amazon Makes It Too Hard to Cancel Prime, Groups Tell FTC.” Amazon Prime is the company’s $119/ year membership that allows one to get free shipping and freely stream music and videos, among other benefits. We’re reminded the program has contributed greatly to the company’s dominance of the worldwide online retail market. Writers Matt Day and Ben Brody report:

“In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday, a group led by Public Citizen said the steps required to cancel Prime ‘are designed to unfairly and deceptively undermine the will of the consumer,’ and may violate FTC rules as well as other consumer protection laws. The letter draws on a complaint by Norway’s consumer protection agency, which on Thursday asked Norwegian regulators to determine whether Amazon violated local law. … The report by Forbrukerrådet, Norway’s state-backed consumer protection agency, documents how Amazon riddles the process with ‘dark patterns,’ or manipulative techniques, including steps that nestle the choice to leave in between other options to abort the whole process or maintain their membership. The group also produced a video that demonstrates how a user who wants to cancel Prime might accidentally click buttons that actually keep them in the program. While complaints routinely land at the FTC with little action, at least one of the parties involved in Thursday’s letter, the Center for Digital Democracy, has been able to push commissioners in the past.”

For its part, Amazon insists it is “clear and easy” to cancel the membership. Amazon is already going through a congressional antitrust investigation and probes by the FTC, European Commission, and other regulators. The shift into the new presidential administration is unlikely to help the company’s position. If Amazon suddenly makes it easier to cancel one’s Prime subscription, we need not wonder why.

Cynthia Murrell, January 28, 2021


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