FTC Charges Amazon with Illegal Prime Membership Practices.

U.S. regulators filed a court complaint against Amazon (AMZN) on Wednesday, alleging that the online retailer engaged in a multi-year campaign to sign up consumers without their consent and made it difficult for them to terminate subscriptions.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the company used “manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as ‘dark patterns’ to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions.”

It also claimed that Amazon made it difficult for Prime members to cancel their subscriptions, and that company officials delayed or declined changes that would have made this process simpler because they would have “adversely affected Amazon’s bottom line.”

Amazon, according to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, “tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions,” which frustrated users and cost them “significant money.” She added that these “manipulative tactics” are detrimental to consumers and law-abiding companies.

The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to order Amazon to cease its practices and to award monetary damages. Amazon did not respond promptly to the complaint.

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