LONDON – Those who have tried to end membership of Amazon Prime, the tech giant’s digital subscription service, may be familiar with the multi-click process: warning that cancellations will be That means losing the “exclusive interest” and prompting to reverse the process or switch to an annual membership instead.
Consumer interests groups in Europe and the US are now urging regulators to take action against Amazon over that Prime design feature, claiming it manipulates users to stick as paid members.
A Norwegian consumer rights group on Thursday filed a legal complaint with the country’s regulators accusing Amazon of engaging in unfair commercial practices with its design revoked. Prime, the latest move to make technology companies more accountable to users.
Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, director of digital policy for the rights group, Norwegian Consumer Council, said: “Closing registration will be as easy as signing up in the first place. “This not only betrayed consumers’ expectations and confidence, but also violated European laws.”
The move was welcomed on Thursday by European consumer rights advocates, some of whom said they had filed their own complaints and in the United States.
Ekpizo, a consumer organization in Greece that said it had complained to regulators there after hearing consumer feedback, said the design of the Prime cancellation process was “a deliberate attempt. Amazon’s intention is to confuse and mislead customers ”.
In France, UFC-Que Choisir, the country’s largest consumer protection group, said donate for Norwegian complaints. One of Germany’s largest consumer protection groups, VSBV, said it was ready to take action against Amazon, but is still working on whether German customers will encounter similar hurdles.
In the United States, Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer group, said it had written to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to investigate whether the cancellation policy violated the Trade Commission Act. Federal or not.
“Amazon should treat customers with respect instead of trying to undermine their autonomy and oppose their decisions,” said Burcu Kilic, director of the group’s digital rights program.
Amazon says it has dismissed claims that the cancellation process has created uncertainty.
“We make it easy for customers to leave whenever they want,” the company said in a statement on Thursday, adding that there are several ways to cancel online or with a phone call. . Information provided during the cancellation “provides a complete view of the benefits and The company said members are canceling service.
Consumer rights advocates say the technique Amazon uses is an example of the “dark paradigm” used on websites and apps to encourage people to do things they don’t want to do. . Tech companies like Amazon have a major influence on consumers, they said.
Harry Brignull, an expert in online fraud operations, who coined the term “dark model” in 2010. Once designed, these techniques may include insurance packaging. travel on flights, encouraging people to accept a legal agreement or sign up for email marketing that can be easily rolled out to all users, he said.
A recent survey of 1,000 people conducted by the Norwegian Consumer Council found that one in four people reported difficulty unsubscribing to a digital content service.
The techniques used to keep users subscribing to Amazon Prime include complicated navigation and misleading wording that makes disqualification negative, said Myrstad of the Norwegian consumer group. said Myrstad of the Norwegian consumer group. “They are used to evoke emotions in you. People are afraid of losing something. They play on your fears. “
Although he calls these tactics manipulation, Mr Brignull said it’s unclear if they are illegal. For example, the new California Privacy Act specifies that “an agreement obtained through the use of dark templates does not constitute consent”, but it is unclear how it applies.
The efforts of consumer groups come as tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are grappling with criticism and lawsuits.
In the United States, the Justice Department has accused Google of illegally defending its monopoly on search, while federal and state regulators have sued Facebook for acquiring its rival to dominate. Social Network. In Europe, lawmakers and regulators are drafting regulations to limit the powers of four companies.
Ursula Pachl, deputy general manager of the European Consumers’ Organization, a sponsoring organization that represents groups in 32 countries, said more than a dozen consumer protection groups across Europe and the United States Ky has worked together to raise concerns with regulators about major technology companies.
“Europe has very good consumer protection laws, but it needs to be enforced, and she added that her organization is planning to send a letter to the European Commission,” said Ms. Pachl. group concerns. “What we need now is the authorities use existing tools to apply them to the online marketplace.”
This effort will build on an earlier campaign, conducted in 2018 by seven European consumer organizations, that said Google manipulated users to get location tracking information.
In addition to the actions of consumers, discontented everyday consumers have another avenue for them – complain loudly, Mr. Brignull said.
“My message to consumers is to complain about these things publicly,” he said, adding that regulators pay attention to feedback on social media and review sites. enterprise. “It gave them a big signal.”
Report contributed by Niki Kitsantonis from Athens, Christopher Schuetze from Berlin and Aurelien Breeden from Paris.