The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Amazon on Wednesday, alleging the online retailing giant had enrolled customers in Amazon Prime without their consent and sabotaged their attempts to cancel.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges that Amazon was using “dark patterns,” which are deceptive design tactics intended to guide customers toward a specific choice. The FTC alleged that Amazon pushed millions of users into signing up for Amazon Prime unwillingly, according to an FTC press release.
1. @FTC has taken action against @amazon for tricking users into signing up for Prime subscriptions—and then deliberately making it hard to cancel. We charge that these deceptive tactics violate the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. https://t.co/ud2j3xmFQ0
— Lina Khan (@linakhanFTC) June 21, 2023
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan said in the press release. (RELATED: George Soros Among Liberal Billionaires Bankrolling Groups Tied To Top Biden Regulator)
The FTC previously sued Amazon in May for allegedly violating a children’s privacy law by keeping children’s voice recordings forever on Alexa speaker devices and ignoring parent’s deletion requests, according to an FTC press release. The FTC proposed that Amazon pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle the matter and to require Amazon to delete the inactive Alexa accounts of children. Amazon settled the case and agreed to pay the fine in June.
“During Amazon’s online checkout process, consumers were faced with numerous opportunities to subscribe to Amazon Prime at $14.99/month,” the FTC alleged. “In many cases, the option to purchase items on Amazon without subscribing to Prime was more difficult for consumers to locate. In some cases, the button presented to consumers to complete their transaction did not clearly state that in choosing that option they were also agreeing to join Prime for a recurring subscription.”
Khan’s tenure at the FTC has been turbulent, with former FTC commissioner Christine Wilson resigning in February, writing a Wall Street Journal column on the matter claiming Khan engaged in “abuses of government power.”
“She’s abandoned long-standing bipartisan practices and made it clear she will use the FTC to advance President Biden’s agenda in the name of economic ‘inequality’ and socialism,” Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Khan has made the argument prior that harm to competition is justification enough to go after big tech companies and has written a paper citing Amazon as a prime example.
A spokesperson for Amazon responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation, “The FTC’s claims are false on the facts and the law. 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. As with all our products and services, we continually listen to customer feedback and look for ways to improve the customer experience, and we look forward to the facts becoming clear as this case plays out.
We also find 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 before they filed a lawsuit. While the absence of that normal course engagement is extremely disappointing, we look forward to proving our case in court.”
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