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In the latest action to challenge alleged digital dark patterns, the FTC has sued Amazon for enrolling people in its Prime program without the consumer’s consent. Once consumers were signed up, the complaint also charges that Amazon set up online obstacles that made it difficult for them to cancel their Prime subscription. According to press reports, Amazon’s in-house nickname for its efforts to deter consumers from unsubscribing from Prime may shed light on the company’s practices. Read on for more about the lawsuit, which alleges violations of the FTC Act and ROSCA – the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.

At this early stage of litigation, the complaint remains redacted, but the FTC alleges that Amazon used dark patterns that resulted in the company enrolling consumers in Prime without their consent. For example, during Amazon’s online checkout process, consumers were faced with numerous opportunities to subscribe to Amazon Prime for $14.99 a month. The FTC says that in many cases, the option to buy items without subscribing to Prime was more difficult for consumers to find. In some instances, the button consumers used to complete their transaction didn’t clearly state that in choosing that option, they were agreeing not only to buy that item, but also to join Prime for a recurring fee.

Whats more, the FTC says consumers who attempted to cancel Prime faced a labyrinth-like process. According to the complaint, Amazon redirected people to multiple pages that presented offers to continue the subscription at a discounted price, to turn off the auto-renew feature, or to decide not to cancel. The FTC says that only by persevering through page after page and offer after offer were consumers given the opportunity to cancel the service. And that’s where that in-house nickname comes in. According to media reports, Amazon used the term “Iliad” to describe its own cancellation process – a likely reference to Homer’s 15,693-line epic poem about the similarly lengthy Trojan War.

Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Amazon was aware that it was enrolling consumers in Prime without their consent and that people were finding it difficult to navigate through the perplexing cancellation process. How did Amazon executives respond? According to the complaint, they failed to take any meaningful steps to address the issues until well after they learned of the FTC’s investigation.

The complaint alleges that Amazon violated the FTC Act by unfairly charging consumers without their consent. In addition, the FTC says the company violated ROSCA by failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms of the transaction before obtaining consumers’ billing information, by failing to get consumers’ express informed consent before charging them, and by failing to provide a simple cancellation mechanism.

The case is pending in federal court in the State of Washington. Even at this early stage, the filing of this action demonstrates the FTC’s commitment to shedding light on alleged dark patterns. Over the years, the FTC has brought numerous law enforcement actions challenging deceptive or unfair practices by brick-and-mortar retailers and online sellers that served to subvert consumer choice. Many of those matters have challenged the conduct of companies that enrolled consumers in plans or subscriptions – with accompanying recurring charges – without their consent. Some of those companies (and many others) have thrown obstacles in the path of consumers trying to cancel. Have you put your enrollment and cancellation processes to the transparency test?

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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June 22, 2023

I canceled my subscription because I wasn't using it and I think $20 a month for something I only use maybe twice a year was to much. The moment I hit cancel subscription they tried to charge my bank for a years subscription. My bank canceled my card because of so many failed transactions

Gilbert Masitsa
June 22, 2023

I was Played too. And I wondered Loud: Is this really Amazon (that's Auto-deducting Me every Month)?

Scott S
June 22, 2023

Yes, I am so happy you’re pursuing this! It’s been a couple of times that this has happened to me! I’ve had to contact American Express to have charges removed back four months or so. I’ll buy something on Amazon and it will automatically sign me up for prime.

June 22, 2023

Thank you FTC for suing Amazon - it can be like running thru a proverbial obstacle course to cancel some companies’ annual subscriptions. And sometimes you think you’ve finally canceled only to see a charge a month later. Kudos for job well done.

Pat Torre
June 22, 2023

I made a purchase with Amazon in February and was automatically charged for Prime. I called and explained I did not order Prime. Was told I would be refunded and prime is cancelled. This happened in February of 2023. I still have the email. I just discovered that Amazon has been billing me 14.99 each month since. I have 2 more emails stating I would be refunded 74.99 from customer service reps, with their names. I have one email from Amazon stating I would be refunded 14.99 which has been received. Per the customer service reps they cannot find that particular email. I will wait 2 more days to see if I receive my total refund.
This is not the first time Amazon has automatically charged me for Prime, but this is the first time they continued to bill my credit card after I was told it was cancelled.
Thank you

August 22, 2023

In reply to by Pat Torre

Yes! Me, too! These emails are lies! They email me saying I will receive a refund and I never do. Also, I cancel my membership and they keep charging me, when I call they say it is because I am on auto renew, one rep said " you are not getting a refund, and hung up on me"

Chris Dorger
June 22, 2023

I am glad that FTC is going after Amazon for this. I believe that there are many more companies that use the same practices to keep consumers from unsubscribing from programs like this. I also wish that FTC would go after Amazon for its claim that Amazon Kindle Unlimited has "millions" of titles. I do not believe that they have that many and are making false claims to lure subscribers. Futhermore, have you ever noticed that you can rate ANYthing that you buy on Amazon but you cannot rate Amazon itself? You cannot rate the Kindle Unlimited program. You cannot rate Amazon's web page ease-of-use or customer service. I also think they should be required to give the country of origin of products on the product page. Thanks, FTC!

William H Dalton
June 22, 2023

This action against Amazon is long overdue. They obvbiously use deceptive tactics to get one to sign up for Prime. I have had numerous problems with Amazon over the past year. So much so that I will not use them anymore!

Bill Dalton

June 22, 2023

That’s a great measure, i suffered the same problem with jingdong which is a famous on-line shopping in china, but no one solve this problem

Maureen A Baker
June 22, 2023

This happened to me, I could not cancel for the life of me. They made it so difficult to do online so I had to call (the number was very difficult to find as well.) Once someone answered, they wouldn't cancel until the END of my term, which was December, I called in February to cancel. I had to threaten Amazon to cancel the Prime and they finally conceded. Nightmare, I would never get Prime again. It's free shipping if you order $25 of merchandise but they take their time with shipping. I am happy they are being called out on this!

June 22, 2023

All of what is written in this article about Amazon business practices is true. I use amazon and have avoided prime over and over and was aware of their scam attempt to hook me in to prime.
It was always difficult to find the free shipping box to check without getting hooked into prime.
Many times Amazon would add shipping charges and I had to go back to see where the correct box was to check for the free shipping on items over $25.
With amazon it is buyer beware.

June 22, 2023

Finally the FTC has finally taken action against Amazon!! The lawsuit is absolutely correct.
It’s an awful, frustrating experience buying anything on Amazon and not get hooked into signing up for Prime!
I try to avoid shopping from them as much as I can.

Subbu S
June 22, 2023

100% true. In fact my interaction with the customer service rep online read "you realize that these shady practices you follow is going to have the FTC come after you?" I had to cancel my CC associated with Amazon to get the Prime sub canceled and make sure they do not defraud me again. Every word of the FTC complaint here is true and I am really glad to read that it is happening (my experience was from back in December 2022).

Frances Friedhoff
June 22, 2023

It took me two years (2020-2022)to finally get my account canceled. Had to dispute the charge with my credit card company and was able to do so fairly easily with an email and record of a refund from Amazon dated one year earlier (2021). Thanks for your pursuit in this matter!!!

Kerry McLachlan
June 22, 2023

My boyfriend ultimately had to cancel his credit card because Amazon would not respond to his repeated requests to cancel his Prime trial membership last year. Doubt he will ever shop Amazon again

Sanjeev Malhotra
June 23, 2023

I was amazed by the tactics Amazon used, initially they offered free month, than I was given membership of Amazon music for free just to keep the subscription going on, they also said since your are prime member your amazon shipments are prioritized and all.. I used Prime very rare and dint find some good content. They certainly lure people, suing them is good.

Kim Beelman
June 23, 2023

No different than what Walmart does to online shoppers with their memberships.
It happened to me and I couldn’t get a refund. Was told I can cancel it but no refunds are given and I didn’t even know I had signed up. It was a box automatically marked upon checkout that I missed seeing.
Cost me over $100

June 25, 2023

In reply to by Kim Beelman

Walmart got me too but I had cut my card off I don’t remember signing up for membership

Mariah Dunlap
June 23, 2023

I had recently discovered that Amazon Prime subscribed me for a membership without my knowledge. It had been charging me recurring payments for half a year by then.
I had thought my card info had been stolen when I first noticed the payments.

The news of this lawsuit came out two days later and I’m happy to see it.

ian and m
June 23, 2023

Husband ordered a book, he made sure prime was uniticked. proceeded to checkout for book and saw that prime was still selected. so he cancelled the whole order.
So he never received a book, but amazon signed him up to prime without his consent, after a very convoluted process of of cancelling amazon prime time even though we never consented to it. amazon took money out of our account for prime time. we blocked all amazon transactions from credit card.
Next amazon did the same again. credit card said they will refund the account.

Again tried to cancel prime ,after solving various are you a human authentication puzzles and several confirmation of confirmation of confirmations .we got a got confirmation that we had unsubscribed. My husband is now cancelling he credit card.
We have also spent an hour deleting the amazon account but still have not received a confirmation email. I feel as if we went to a shop and the shop keeper put their hands into our purse without us seeing.

We run a number software business and made purchases for 10,000 of dollars of computer hardware and books, but after amazon prime time practices we have lost all trust in them. In our personal opinion we cannot tell the difference between them and a scammer and wont do any more busies with them. I think their customer base will suffer due to their practices. and reading about what they say in their defense with the FTC is inconsistent with our experience.
WE will no use amazon cloud services for our software as well and move to a more reputable provider

June 23, 2023

Amazon didn’t make it hard to remove myself from prime shipping. No harder than Apple removing my iCloud or AppleID. These new services we assume people cannot live without any longer and that is completely false.

I deleted my prime account over 12 years ago and refuse to give Amazon any more of my business. It has not hurt them one bit. Saved me thousands.

I get to choose who I shop from online. Found Amazon goods were not always the greatest quality. Would rather pay the premium at specific retailers instead of Amazon’s greenhouse it’s good enough business model.
As for the prime subscription we don’t have Amazon in my area so I don’t have access to same day delivery.

I felt Amazon was all computer based processes and not easy enough to talk with someone on the phone about the cancellation process.

The truth is the last time I was a customer was 12 years ago though I thought the process for calling in was a 15 minute phone call without any delay. Within 3 business days all the prime service was turned off completely without further issue.
I expected more of a hassle and it a non-issue.
A lot has changed in 12 years though for me the process was startling easy to remove ‘essential’ and needed Amazon services.

Anthony Le
June 25, 2023

Totally agreed and completely true story.

Franklyn Garcia
June 25, 2023

This action against Amazon is long overdue. They obvbiously use deceptive tactics to get one to sign up for Prime. I have had numerous problems with Amazon over the past year. So much so that I will not use them anymore!

Alexandria L
June 28, 2023

I have had a similar interaction with Amazon. I have screenshots and emails from the chat with an agent. In my case I canceled the subscription and thought it was done but a few weeks later they tried to charge me and it declined. I reached out and they said a new one started on the first because it was auto renew after dancing around the question of why they were attempting to charge my credit card in the first place. I was confused as to how you could renew something I physically went to the site and canceled. Again they danced around it and said they would call. I let them know that I would be recording the conversation and they never called. I also have screenshots of this conversation.

Shaun OHara
June 29, 2023

I enrolled in free trial offer for Amazon Prime membership but was unable to cancel. I tried several times to cancel before end of trial period in order to avoid being charged monthly rate starting when trial expired. I wasnt able to cancel & was charged several times until such time as no funds were remaining on gift card listed as payment option on my acct.

Tim Schaak
July 07, 2023

Due to a problem with your card, we were unable to charge your account $13.99 and applicable taxes for your next 1 month of Amazon Prime. Your membership benefits are currently on hold.

If you don't update your card information in the next 24 hours, your Amazon Prime membership may be cancelled. To continue enjoy your membership benefits, please update your payment information.

Thank you!

The Amazon Team

July 03, 2023

Amazon charged my account for US$353.09 for an order that was canceled within hours of order - I received confirmation of the successful cancellation - yet, 5 weeks have past spending hours in the support without having received the refund. In fact Amazon keeps saying that they did not made the change - but they did and I even supplied them with a copy of my bank statements. Now I am asking already 2 times for an address to file a small claims court and did not receive a response on my request.

Juanita Walter
July 05, 2023

I was also charged for prime just to buy an item online and I did not want to be charged thank you for deleting the payment

July 07, 2023

I got signed up for prime without my consent. Thankfully they gave me a full refund but I'm worried this will keep happening.

Durell Marble
July 07, 2023

This happened to me quite a few years ago but I just dealt with it because I couldn't get rid of it and continue to have their service because I couldn't cancel it, still do have it

Peter Sinclair-Hall
July 10, 2023

I have a prime membership, and had music unlimited for 79.99 a year. I cancelled music and received confirmation, but was still charged. I'm techy and it still took me 20 minutes to get online chat to get me to someone. They then acted like I did it again, but ignored my comments about getting confirmation.

Anna jimenez
July 11, 2023

I cancelled my membership then was re-enrolled when I purchased something a few months later. I was charged 2 months membership before I realized it. Had to call and have someone walk me through permanent membership. I don't order from them any more. Too confusing to quit membership.

Tom Hodkin
July 12, 2023

3 months ago I was reviewing bank statements and was noticing I was getting charged more than 4 times a month for Amazon prime it contacted there customer services after dealing with them for like 3 days I eventually got them to refund me some of it I then had them cancel all my accounts then I started watching my bank statements the next month they changed me again so I contacted them again and getting a runaround I never did get a refund then I waited till the next month and again they charged me so I went and closed my debit card account to stop them from taking any more money all good then. You’d think a week later come to find out that they just switched cards they where charging they found a card I used one time buying something for work using my work card just threw my prime account and then they started charging that card

Jacob Arnold
July 19, 2023

This isn't also amazon, but many gaming companies, porn companies, streaming services and host providers like

The time is now to have mandatory option for all electronic service to have an insta cancellation feature and for all business to by default not enroll their consumers in automatic subscriptions services.

Joetta Culbertson
July 20, 2023

Amazon is very difficult to cancel Amazon Prime Membership. They also charge again after you figure out how to cancel. I tried the 1 month free option to get free shipping and I had 4 days left to cancel. The following month they charged me again and even instead of $14.99, they charged me $15.62! It nearly cost me to have inefficient funds! If the fraud department with my bank hadn't caught it I'd be in financial trouble! I also had the inconvenience of having to drive to town to get a new debit card! It also caused a fuss between my husband and I because he thought I'd used it online and had been hacked. It was very stressful. After getting my card fixed the next day my card got shut down again and I have another trip to town about the same deal! This needs to be fixed!

Rita Jovinelli
July 20, 2023

Where is the claim form. I order amazon all the time and prime is there but I did not ask for it.

josephine Pretty
July 29, 2023

In reply to by Rita Jovinelli

I live in France and the same thing is happening here signing me up for prime when I never clicked for it. I have been charged for about 5 months worth of something I never signed up for.

The important thing is that you CANNOT CANCEL IT the same as in the US.

The French have very strict consumer laws but have done nothing so far to stop it. Stealing people's money is
theft surely in any language.

Your can cancel Prime it in the UK and Germany.

I have now deleted my account with Amazon from which I ordered thousands of Euros worth of goods.

You could do the same, it's so inconvenient by well worth it to stop your money taken from you illegiailly

Celia R. Javadi
July 29, 2023

Yes, the last time I found charges for Prime on my debit card, I didn't know I had been enrolled in it, and I had to call to get help cancelling it.

Amazon also majorly screwed me over with the "Amazon Reward Credit Card." They invited me to apply for it to save money, earn rewards, etc., so I did, and they opened an Amazon Chase Rewards card for me which is apparently a different card and apparently disqualifies me from the special financing I was supposed to get on the computer I purchased on Cyber Monday. Their rejection of the Terms and Conditions for this purchase, which they provided to me, is costing me a few hundred dollars in interest in violation of the advertised sale and their Terms and Conditions. Another classic bait-&-switch scam by Amazon.
I hate them. I only use them to buy things I need and can't find elsewhere. I will cancel my credit card with them as soon as it reaches zero balance. And I am publishing this scam incident on every venue I can find.

July 29, 2023

This just happened to me today. I was on Amazon and placed an order. I was asked to upgrade to the free 30 day Prime membership, like always, clicked no thank you. And Amazon automatically enrolled me in Prime and started the 30 day trial. I immediately canceled it online and called Amazon. They told me there is nothing they can do, and wait for the trial to end. They said it will cancel after a month and don't click on the prime button. What?! I never agreed to start in the first place. My problem is I never wanted to start and would like to keep my free trial for a time I would be placing lots of orders. Second I don't trust Amazon not to automatically start a membership without my permission since they just started my trial. They need to fix this and quit auto enrolling people!

July 29, 2023

I am an Amazon Prime member that just had the process of cancelling stopped and they made it impossible so now I am going to have to change my cards so they stop auto drafting an account I no longer have access to.

July 29, 2023

I signed up for only kindle unlimited in July 2022. I canceled it the next month. Soon after, I started using my husband's account so that we could use only one account for making Amazon purchases. I got an email today, July 26, 2023, from Amazon to the email I used for my old Amazon account telling me my Prime membership had been canceled. I thought this was odd because I didn't use that account anymore. I checked to see if the email was some mistake, but it turns out that they had been charging me $10 every month since July 2023 for Amazon music unlimited. In no way did I sign up for this. I only use Apple music or Spotify. Also, I checked to make sure that this membership was in fact canceled, and it wasn't. I had to try to cancel it, but I'm not even sure I was successful in doing so--the page I was brought to didn't confirm my membership was canceled and instead gave me a myriad of different ways to continue the subscription.

August 03, 2023

And now they say Prime video is included with Amazon Prime. Bit I am charged an additional $9.99 a month for Prime video.

August 03, 2023

I am a victim of this scam!!!

Alethea Thomas
August 08, 2023

Charge me all the time and I don't have subscription

Alan Marden
August 14, 2023

Amazon stole money from my bank account twice with out my permission.

August 14, 2023

Happens to me every time I order anything 😮

Lance Patterson
August 16, 2023

I called Chase to cancel my Amazon/Card. Three months later, I received a call from Chase stating that my account was three months past due. I advised them, it would be paid off Monday (the call was on Saturday). This was done, upon further investigation my card was not cancelled as requested. My spouse had charged a portion of the balance as well as my 7 year old boy charging the residual. Chase refunded the un-oratorized charges, but this has adversely /affected my credit. Now Chase says they cannot find the recorded message from my 12/10/22 call, even through I was told that was my last conversation with them. Why does this feel like they are engaging in practices like Wells Fargo?

bridget clary
August 30, 2023

Thank you for doing this! I am attempting a class action lawsuit against Amazon. I purchased digital music thru the years. Now Amazon is stating I must sign up for unlimited to listen to the music I bought and paid for when I want. Unlimited is another 10.99. Any suggestions? Thank u

JoAnn Wilabay
September 11, 2023

I have asked to be removed for the last 1-2 years. I am still paying,but I pay the shipping when I buy something. I have never been able to get it stopped.

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