The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has officially sued Amazon for allegedly making it extremely difficult to cancel a Prime subscription once subscribed. The service, which costs $14.99 or £8.99 a month, has supposedly used tricky tactics to hold onto users for as long as possible, making them jump through hoops to cease payments, a practice condemned by the FTC and other regulators.
They have now filed a complaint to the US District Court for the Western District of Washington against the company, claiming the practice was “well known within Amazon”.
“For years, Defendant Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) has knowingly duped millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling in its Amazon Prime service (“Nonconsensual Enrollees” or “Nonconsensual Enrollment”). Specifically, Amazon used manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions,” states the complaint.
The complaint continues on to outline that the company intentionally misled customers to make it difficult to cancel Prime and knew it was “legally indefensible”, which led Amazon to codename the process “Iliad”.
Changes were made to Amazon’s cancellation process in April 2023, which now makes a lot more sense than the old “Iliad Flow”.
“Iliad Flow” refers to the series of clicks that the company allegedly made the user go through to cancel, which the FTC states was “labyrinthine”, and Amazon’s leadership continually declined to introduce user features that would streamline it. If the user did not go through this process, the only other option was calling customer services.
While it was possible to cancel a Prime subscription prior to this investigation, it required a "four-page, six-click, fifteen-option cancellation process." Clicking on the “end subscription” button, which you would expect to immediately take you to cancellation, actually redirected the user to an entirely separate cancellation process, supposedly designed to prevent loss.
The FTC is now seeking civil penalties, monetary fines, and a permanent injunction against the company, as it believes they violated US law. Amazon is also accused of intentionally slowing down the investigation by failing to provide the relevant documents in a timely manner.