Consumer watchdogs in Europe and the US are challenging Amazon over their use of manipulative dark pattern design to promote their Prime service.
The Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) have filed a legal complaint with Norway’s consumer authority claiming the design breaches EU law. This follows the NCC finding that cancelling a subscription to Amazon’s Prime service takes scrolling through six pages and making several complex decisions.
The US consumer watchdog Public Citizen is leading a coalition of groups who are also filing a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Additionally, consumer groups in France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Switzerland are calling for action due to similar claims.
In a study conducted by the NCC, it was found that on each of the six page cancellation process, the consumer is nudged towards keeping their Prime membership. They claim Amazon does this by including yellow warning triangles with exclamation points and buttons containing the words “keep my benefits.”
This is known as an example of “dark patterns” which is defined as techniques or features of design that are intended to manipulate users.
After speaking to 1,000 Norwegian consumers, it was discovered that one in four had difficulty unsubscribing from Amazon Prime.
Amazon rejects these claims. They responded that they make it ‘clear and easy’ for Prime members to cancel their subscription at any time, whether it’s ‘through a few clicks’ or by a ‘quick phone call.’ They also stated that customer trust is at the ‘heart of all of their services’ and reject that their cancellation process is unfair.