Amazon Prime: how much are subscriptions in the UK as company accused of enrolling customers without consent

(Photo: Edward Smith/Getty Images)(Photo: Edward Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo: Edward Smith/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Have you had trouble trying to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription? You're not alone

In its latest move against the eCommerce giant, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has accused Amazon.com of enrolling millions of consumers into its paid subscription service, Amazon Prime, without their consent.

The agency also alleges that Amazon created obstacles for customers attempting to cancel the service, making the process difficult.

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The FTC filed a lawsuit against Amazon in a Seattle federal court, asserting that the company "knowingly duped millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling" in Amazon Prime by utilising manipulative and deceptive user-interface designs referred to as "dark patterns" to deceive consumers into signing up for automatically renewing subscriptions.

What has Amazon been accused of?

According to the lawsuit, after facing significant pressure from the FTC, Amazon modified its cancellation procedure in April, but the process still involves five clicks on desktop and six clicks on mobile devices for consumers to cancel their subscriptions on Amazon.com.

The complaint states that consumers attempting to cancel their Prime subscriptions will encounter a convoluted series of steps to do so. The FTC further revealed that Amazon referred to this process, initiated in 2016, as "Iliad Flow," drawing inspiration from Homer's epic poem about the protracted Trojan War, which according to Greek mythology lasted for a period of ten years.

Amazon has responded to the allegations in a statement, refuting the FTC's claims as both factually and legally untrue and calling them "false on the facts and the law." As part of its legal action, the FTC is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction to prohibit future violations.

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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."

How true is it?

Those who have attempted to cancel Amazon Prime, or subscriptions to other online services, will know of the sometimes arduous processes that can be required.

The first obstacle is usually locating the "Manage Your Prime Membership" section, hidden amidst a sea of enticing deals and recommendations. Clicking on the small, inconspicuous hyperlink link can thrust oneself into a world of perplexity as the digital gears of Amazon's cancellation machinery begin to turn

Many companies demand to know your reason for leaving, and follow up your reassurances that it's not them, it's you with confirmation pages that require you to input your password once again, as if the decision to cancel was not challenging enough.

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Even once you reach the fabled "Cancel Membership" button, ready to strike it with a resolute click, you may be meekly asked "Are you sure you want to leave?"

By creating barriers to cancellation, companies may aim to discourage customers from terminating their subscriptions, hoping to retain subscribers and continue generating revenue.

The FTC has said Amazon Prime stands as the world's largest subscription programme, generating an annual revenue of $25 billion (£20 billion). It provides an array of benefits, including free shipping for millions of items, discounts and access to a wide selection of movies, music and television series through Amazon Prime Video.

According to senior analyst Evelyn Mitchell-Wolf from Insider Intelligence, the FTC's action against Amazon serves as a notable case, but it is not uncommon for companies to create hurdles when it comes to cancelling an account compared to the ease of creating one.

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Some companies prioritise the ease of signing-up over cancellation processes, and may invest more resources in streamlining the sign-up experience and offer convenient options for enrolment, while making cancellation processes more complex.

With a membership count exceeding 200 million worldwide, Prime members play a significant role in driving Amazon's sales, and the subscription service holds critical importance for Amazon's various ventures.

While there are no universal regulations governing cancellation processes, consumer protection laws often require companies to provide reasonable and accessible cancellation options. If companies engage in deceptive or unfair practices that mislead consumers or make cancellation excessively difficult, they may face legal consequences, fines or regulatory actions.

How does it compare to other subscriptions?

Amazon Prime encompasses quite a lot of perks and features, and as such isn't really comparable to other subscription services. However, one its more noteworthy arms its Prime Video streaming service, which offers films and TV shows. So it's easy to compare that to similar platforms like Netflix and Disney+.

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