Photographer: Thorsten Wagner/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday sued Amazon, alleging the nation’s dominant online retailer intentionally duped millions of consumers into signing up for its mainstay Prime program and “sabotaged” their attempts to cancel.
The agency claims Amazon violated the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act by using so-called dark patterns, or deceptive design tactics meant to steer users toward a specific choice, to push consumers to enroll in Prime without their consent.
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement.
The FTC had been investigating sign-up and cancellation processes for Amazon’s Prime program since March 2021. Tensions flared between Amazon and the FTC when the agency sought to have CEO Andy Jassy and founder Jeff Bezos testify on the company’s Prime practices. Amazon argued the request would be unduly and burdensome, which the FTC rejected.
The Prime program, launched in 2005, has grown to become one of the most popular subscription services in the world, with more than 200 million members globally, and it has generated billions of dollars for Amazon. It costs $139 a year and includes perks like free shipping and access to streaming content.
Representatives from Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.