US FTC says Amazon duped millions of consumers into enrolling in Prime.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday accused Amazon.com (AMZN.O) of enrolling millions of consumers into its paid subscription Amazon Prime service without their consent and making it hard for them to cancel, the agency’s latest action against the ecommerce giant in recent weeks.
The FTC sued Amazon in federal court in Seattle, alleging that the company has “knowingly duped millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling in Amazon Prime.” In a statement, Amazon called the FTC’s claims “false on the facts and the law.”
Amazon has used “manipulative, coercive or deceptive user-interface designs known as ‘dark patterns’ to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically renewing Prime subscriptions,” the FTC said as it seeks civil penalties and a permanent injunction to prevent future violations.
The lawsuit is one of several actions taken by President Joe Biden’s administration intended to rein in the outsized market power of Big Tech firms as it tries to increase competition to protect consumers.
The FTC said Amazon Prime is the world’s largest subscription program, generating $25 billion in revenue annually. It offers fast, free shipping on millions of items, various discounts and access to movies, music and television series, as well as other benefits.
Prime members in the United States pay $139 per year and drive much of Amazon’s sales volume. Prime, which has more than 200 million members worldwide, is crucial to Amazon’s other businesses including its streaming service Prime Video and its grocery delivery service.
In its statement, Amazon said, “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.”
Amazon added it finds “it concerning that the FTC announced this lawsuit without notice to us, in the midst 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.”
Wednesday’s lawsuit came on the day Amazon announced the July dates of its major sales event Prime Day.