Consumer Rights groups asking regulators to look into Amazon Prime’s subscription practices

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If you have been struggling to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription, turns out you’re not the only one, as 16 consumer rights groups in the US and Europe are urging regulators to look into the cancellation processes of the tech giant and its online services.

One of the 16 rights groups, the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) recently detailed its own findings (PDF) into the matter, describing the practices of the company as “manipulative” and “unreasonably cumbersome”.

“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,” added 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 further explained.

Whether that is indeed the case remains to be seen, but it would not be the first time that an online service provider sought to make unsubscribing a little more difficult than normal.

In the case of Amazon Prime, the rights groups are positing that the subscription is being used as a tool to encourage users to lock themselves its said service, with added features such as free and faster shipping, as well as bundling together other services into an interlinked package.

Rights groups are therefore claiming that Amazon makes the act of unsubscribing or cancelling a service needlessly confusing, especially when the company famously integrates a single click experience to its ecommerce platform, but cannot do so for leaving the service.

As for the legal ground on which rights groups can contest Amazon, once again the NCC outlines how Amazon Prime infringes, citing its own Marketing Control Act.

“The Marketing Control Act section 6 implements the general clause in Article 5 of the Directive which states that an unfair commercial practice is banned. What constitutes an unfair commercial practice is defined in the second paragraph of section 6, which states that a commercial practice is unfair if it breaches ‘good business practices’ toward consumers, and is able to significantly alter a consumer’s financial conduct, so that the consumer makes a decision that they would not otherwise have made,” explains the organisation.

Amazon believes these claims, however, are not true, arguing that it is indeed as easy as it says it is.

“Amazon makes it clear and easy for Prime members to cancel their subscription at any time, whether through a few clicks online, a quick phone call or by turning off auto renew in their membership options. Customer trust is at the heart of all of our products and services and we reject the claim that our cancellation process is unfair or creates uncertainty,” noted the firm in a statement to TechCrunch this week.

“We take great pride in the Prime service and the number of ways it makes our members lives easier, but we make it easy for customers to leave whenever they choose to. The information we provide in the online cancellation flow gives a full view of the benefits and services members are cancelling,” it adds.

As for who will win out in this back and forth remains to be seen, but regardless it serves to show that reading through T’s & C’s before clicking yes is very important.

[Source – TechCrunch]
[Image – Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.