The Consumer Council claims that the service Amazon Prime operates with manipulative design features in the cancellation procedure which make it difficult for the consumers to cancel their subscriptions, and has filed a complaint against the company for violation of the Marketing Control Act's provisions on unfair commercial practices. In short, the Consumer Council claims that the procedure for unsubscribing is unclear and does not comply with the fundamental principle that it should not be more difficult to unsubscribe from a service than it was to subscribe in the first place.
Amazon is one of the world's largest global e-commerce retailers. In addition to providing other services, Amazon runs the digital content subscription service Amazon Prime, where subscribers receive special offers and get access to services like Prime Music and Prime Video. Consumers subscribe to Amazon Prime through an Amazon-account. The Consumer Council has now filed a complaint against Amazon to the Consumer Authority based on the design of the cancellation procedure for an Amazon Prime subscription. According to the Consumer Council, Amazon Prime's cancellation procedure violates the Marketing Control Act.
The Consumer Council has prepared the report 'You Can Log Out, But You Can Never Leave' where Amazon Prime's cancellation procedure is examined and described in detail. Based on the findings, the Consumer Council claims that Amazon uses a manipulative design in the cancellation procedure to influence the consumers to keep their subscriptions. The Consumer Council particularly points out that the procedure consists of several steps that the consumer must click through, repeatedly having to confirm his or her wish to cancel the subscription. In the process, the consumer will also be confronted with warning triangles and several reminders that membership benefits will be lost. Based on this, the Consumer Council claims that the cancellation process is complicated, lengthy, and has manipulative design features, and, therefore, violates the Marketing Control Act section 6, cf. section 8 and 9.
The Marketing Control Act section 6 prohibits unfair commercial practices. Under section 6 subsection 2, a commercial practice shall be considered unfair if it conflicts with good business practice towards consumers and is likely materially to distort the economic behavior of consumers, causing them to make decisions they would not otherwise have made. Further, a commercial practice is always unfair if it is misleading (section 7 and 8) or aggressive (section 9).
The Norwegian Consumer Council is not alone in turning its focus towards Amazon Prime's cancellation procedure. According to the Consumer Council's website, 16 other consumer organizations across Europe and the United States have taken action against Amazon based on the report 'You Can Log Out, But You Can Never Leave' with a request to the respective consumer authority to look into the problem.
In Norway, it is now in the hands of the Consumer Authority to assess whether the cancellation procedure of Amazon Prime violates the Marketing Control Act. If the Norwegian Consumer Agency concludes that Amazon's practice is illegal, it may result in Amazon Prime having to make its cancellation procedure more simple and user-friendly. Such a result would also influence other companies' practices.
We are following the development in the case and will provide an update.