Amazon’s use of dark patterns that add friction to terminating a Prime subscription is being targeted by 16 consumer rights groups in Europe and the US which are taking coordinated action to urge regulatory intervention.
One of — Norway’s Consumer Council (NCC) — has also published a report calling out what it describes as the ecommerce giant’s “manipulative” and “unreasonably cumbersome” unsubscribe process for Prime. The information has been punningly titled ‘You can log out, but you can never leave‘.
“It should be as easy to end a subscription as it was to subscribe in the first place. Amazon should facilitate a good user experience instead of hindering customers and tricking them into continuing paid services they do not need or want,” said NCC director of digital policy, Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, in a statement.
“In our view, this practice not only betrays the expectations and trust of consumers but breaches European law,” he added.
A Prime subscription is a vital tool in Amazon’s arsenal, generating reliably recurring revenue while simultaneously encouraging users to lock themselves into making additional purchases via the carrot of unlimited ‘free’ fast shipping (which applies to a subset of qualifying items on the marketplace).
Other perks Amazon throws into Prime juice membership include streaming movies, TV shows, music, and games, plus exclusive shopping programs and discounts (though the exact bundle varies by market).
However, a lock-in vibe also applies when trying to end a Prime subscription, per the complaints, because Amazon requires users to successfully navigate multiple menus, select from confusingly worded multiple-choice options, and scroll past various distracting and irrelevant interstitials and dead space to locate the button that ends their subscription.