FTC: Amazon tricked users into signing up for Prime and made it too hard to cancel it

Originally published at: FTC: Amazon tricked users into signing up for Prime and made it too hard to cancel it | Boing Boing


I use Amazon and every time I buy something they tell me how I can save money by subscribing or getting Prime. Are you sure you don’t want this deal? They repeat themselves. Is that the “trick” they use? Because really it’s no different than Spotify, every phone deal, Sirrus, and more. It goes back to Compuserve for me. A couple of clicks and I’m subscribed, but to unsubscribe I had to call which put me on hold. I finally called them early on Sunday morning. In fact only Netscape treated me with respect on unsubscribing.


I accidentally signed up for Prime a couple of years ago. I chose Free Shipping from the drop-down, since I didn’t care how long the package took to arrive. It was only when I was charged at the end of the month that I realized I must have signed up for Prime when I thought I was just choosing shipping times, like one does on most websites. It seems obvious to me that the decision to list a monthly membership in the same list as one-time fees without any user confirmation window following is designed to get people to subscribe by accident. They’ve not doubt made a lot of money off people who pay for a month or two before they realize they’ve signed up.


I’m a purchaser for my company and they also push monthly recurring purchasing of products. I’d purchase a case of printer paper or paper towels, and Amazon would automatically fill in the dot, circle, whatever, that stated: make this a monthly purchase. I had to remember to double check that I unclicked that circle. It was aggravating.

I noticed that they no longer seem to do this on the website, but I’m not sure when they stopped.

ETA: We already had a company prime business account. Also edited to clarify that Amazon used tactics for recurring monthly purchases.


I ran into this when I tried to cancel my subscription to Kindle Unlimited. It took 15 minutes of intensive searching before I sussed out the combination of links to remove myself. IDDKFA or ohlordgivemeatank were easy by comparison. Simple my shiny metal bum.

Amazon has been going hard into the dark patterns that make you buy things involuntarily.


Yep, they have a lot of smart people who are getting paid well to think about how to do this, day and night.

And they probably make even MORE money by people signing up and never noticing, or think it’s worth US$16/mo to not have to try to figure out how to unsubscribe. That really sucks. They should be required to give Prime to everyone for free for two years. But that would probably be nary a blip on their income statement.

Anyway, good for Lina Khan and for the consumer public. @doctorow mentions her a lot.


Good! Way to finally do your job, FTC!

Now do the same for every other online business, virtually all of which are constantly using dirty tricks to fool you into signing up for rent.

Maybe while you’re at it, make rent-seeking business models illegal, because nobody fucking wants them.

After that, go ahead and ban MLMs, which everyone knows are pyramid schemes yet are allowed to exist for no conceivable reason,

For the hat trick, take down herbal supplements because they are unregulated drugs and should be illegal to sell, yet the FDA inexplicably plays dumb about them and has decided they are your problem.

Then I’ll be impressed and start to believe you aren’t a captured regulatory body.


the sort of wild behavior we associate with rowdy post-pandemic air travel, is happening at all levels! People are thinking “screw it, I’ll see what I can get away with” and in America corporations are people too, my friend.

My perspective is that corporations have been seeing what they can get away with for a long time (forever?) - and well before the pandemic - and it has become so egregious in recent years that the attitude has spread to people who figure out they are being screwed so they’ll see what they in turn can get away with.

I’m reckon there is a small element of cause and effect here - though people being as shitty as corporations is not that new either - and better-behaved corporations would have reduced, in some part, at least, the bad behaviour of individuals. Corporations set an example and people notice it.


I remember reading a fair few years ago, that long after the unrestricted internet had become a thing, AOL was making in the order of $2 million a month from people who had paid the $5 a month and never noticed on their credit card statement. Not sure how long this continued, but I bet Amazon would love to continue the trend.


I’m surprised that “Project Iliad” made it past the “no jokes that wouldn’t be fun in discovery” rule.


My sister was one of those. She isn’t tech-savvy. She put one of those stupid CDs into her computer because she was curious what it was, followed the instructions, and they started charging her. She didn’t like AOL and never touched it again after that first time playing with it, but they charged her for years. At first she didn’t notice, but even after she did, she couldn’t figure out how to cancel it. They made it very very difficult and it took several months of effort and some legal threats and chargebacks to do so.


There website has been a mess of confusion forever. I still have to be careful about where I click.


I keep seeing that “$0.00” and it’s tempting but I’m so glad I haven’t clicked on it. I do subscribe to Prime yet I find I’m not using it for the main purpose at the time I started, the streaming content.

I like the idea of a “Digital Marketing No Means No Act of 2023” (purloining from my deleted comment: especially youtube “free trial subscription” popup)


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