Amazon Prime Day—the online retailer’s annual sales event for paid members—is soon upon us, and for many consumers, that’s no reason to celebrate, as they weren’t aware they were even subscribed to a Prime membership.
Amazon’s Prime membership is a type of paid user account that includes features such as expedited shipping, media streaming services, and access to exclusive deals. But for many shoppers, their membership comes as an unpleasant surprise.
According to recent charges filed by the Federal Trades Commission, Amazon has knowingly deceived millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling in Amazon Prime. The online retailer is reported to have used manipulative and coercive designs known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into enrolling in Prime subscriptions that automatically renew each month.
Even for those who noticed the subscription and attempted to cancel, Amazon’s cancelation process was also intentionally complicated. The FTC stated that the primary purpose of its Prime cancelation process was not to enable subscribers to cancel but, rather, to stop them. Amazon leadership allegedly slowed or rejected changes that would’ve made it easier for users to cancel, perhaps in a combined effort to protect Amazon’s bottom line.
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “These manipulative tactics harm consumers and law-abiding businesses alike.”
If Amazon willingly confused shoppers into unwanted paid memberships and deliberately complicated the cancelation process, the multinational tech company could be in violation of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, both of which are designed to protect consumers from these very kinds of deceptive practices.
If you shop with Amazon and are unsure of your account status, be sure to log in and review your account details closely. If you discover an unwanted Prime subscription, cancel immediately and contact Morgan & Morgan for help.
How Can Amazon Enroll People in Prime?
Some shoppers may be shocked to realize that they too have been unknowingly charged for Prime memberships, leaving many to ask themselves, “How does Amazon sign people up for Prime?” Below are a few known tactics that can snag shoppers into unwanted fees.
The Free Trial Trap
Amazon's strategy to entice customers into signing up for Prime often starts with a free trial period offer. Users can be offered a 30-day trial, during which they can enjoy all the perks of Prime membership at no cost. This trial may seem like a harmless opportunity to test out the benefits, but many customers fail to realize that they will be automatically enrolled in a paid membership if they do not cancel before the trial period ends.
Ambiguous Sign-Up Process
One of the most contentious issues surrounding Amazon's tactics is the ambiguity of the Prime sign-up process. It is not uncommon for users to visit the Amazon website seeking to make a purchase or check out a product, only to find themselves enrolled in Prime without their explicit consent. This is often due to strategically placed "Sign Up" or "Get Started" buttons that are designed to confuse customers, leading them to unintentionally click and subscribe to Prime. The fine print and lack of transparency during the sign-up process make it easy for shoppers to overlook the terms and conditions, unwittingly subscribing to a service they never intended to join.
Misleading Checkout Experience
Another way in which Amazon deceives shoppers into unwanted Prime memberships is through a misleading checkout experience. In their rush to complete a purchase, customers may overlook pre-selected options that automatically enroll them in Prime. These options are often presented with subtle language or pre-checked boxes, making it difficult for shoppers to notice and opt out of the membership. By taking advantage of the fast-paced nature of online shopping, Amazon capitalizes on customers' haste and lack of attention to detail.
Inadequate Information and Customer Support
Even if a customer manages to identify an unwanted Prime membership, canceling it can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Amazon does provide the option to cancel online, but the information provided can be convoluted and difficult to navigate. Customers may find themselves buried in a maze of links and FAQs, unable to locate the necessary steps to cancel their subscription. This lack of clarity and the absence of easily accessible customer support further compounds the feeling of being deceived and trapped in an unwanted membership.
What Is Amazon Prime’s Impact on Shoppers?
The consequences of Amazon's deceptive tactics can be significant for unsuspecting shoppers. Many customers have reported unexpected charges on their credit cards or bank statements, leading to financial strain and frustration. Moreover, the frustration of dealing with unwanted subscriptions and the subsequent cancellation process can erode trust and tarnish the overall shopping experience for numerous consumers.
These tactics not only harm individuals but also cast a shadow of doubt over Amazon's commitment to customer satisfaction and ethical business practices.
What Should I Do if Amazon Charged Me for Prime Without My Consent?
If you or someone you love has been unfairly charged for memberships or services that you did not willingly consent to, don’t hesitate to contact Morgan & Morgan for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to learn more about your legal options.