July 12, 2023
Amazon Prime, the popular subscription service that offers free shipping, streaming, and other benefits, is facing a lawsuit from the US Federal Trade Commission (‘FTC’) for allegedly tricking customers into signing up for the service without their consent. What are some of the specific “dark patterns” that Amazon allegedly used to trick customers into signing up for Prime? How has Amazon responded to the FTC’s claim and what are some of the broader implications of this lawsuit for the tech industry?

Amazon Prime & The Accusation From The FTC

Amazon Prime is one of the most popular subscription services in the world, offering customers a range of benefits such as free two-day shipping, access to streaming video and music, and more.

However, a recent lawsuit filed by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Amazon has raised concerns about the company’s practices when it comes to Prime membership. The FTC has accused Amazon of using “dark patterns” to trick customers into signing up for Prime without their consent, and of “sabotaging” efforts to undo their subscriptions. This has led to questions about the relationship between fraud, cybersecurity and Amazon Prime membership. When it was first introduced in 2005, Amazon Prime cost $79 a year and offered subscribers free two-day shipping on purchases. As its offerings have grown, so has the cost, reaching $139 a year in the US

Fraud & Cybersecurity

Fraud is a serious problem in the digital age, and it can take many forms. One of the most common types of fraud is phishing, which involves tricking people into giving away their personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data. Phishing attacks can be carried out through email, social media, or other online channels, and they can be difficult to detect. Cybercriminals often use sophisticated techniques to make their phishing emails look legitimate, such as using logos and branding from well-known companies like Amazon.

This is where cybersecurity comes in. Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from digital attacks, theft, and damage. It involves a range of techniques and technologies, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption. Amazon Prime membership is a popular target for fraudsters because it involves recurring payments and access to a range of valuable services. The FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon alleges that the company used “dark patterns” to trick customers into signing up for Prime without their consent.

The ‘Dark Patterns’ & Response From Amazon

Dark patterns are manipulative user-interface designs that are intended to trick users into taking actions that they wouldn’t otherwise take. For example, a dark pattern might make it difficult to cancel a subscription or hide important information in small print. The FTC alleges that Amazon used dark patterns to make it difficult for customers to cancel their Prime subscriptions, while making it easy to sign up in the first place. This is a classic continue example of a dark pattern, as it takes advantage of the fact that many people are busy or distracted when they sign up for services online. By making it easy to sign up for Prime and difficult to cancel, Amazon may have been able to boost its subscription numbers and revenue at the expense of its customers.


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The relationship between fraud, cybersecurity, and Amazon Prime membership is complex, and it highlights the need for strong consumer protections and regulatory oversight. While Amazon has denied the FTC’s allegations and claimed that it is easy to cancel Prime membership, the fact remains that many customers have reported difficulty canceling their subscriptions. This suggests that there may be a problem with Amazon’s user interface design, or that the company is intentionally making it difficult for customers to cancel.

What Should A Consumer Do To Protect Themselves?

The lawsuit against Amazon Prime is part of a broader crackdown on Big Tech companies by antitrust regulators in Washington, including the FTC and the Department of Justice. The case highlights the growing scrutiny of tech companies’ business practices, particularly those that are seen as anti-competitive or anti-consumer. If the FTC is successful in its lawsuit, it could set a precedent for other companies that use similar tactics to enroll customers in subscription services without their consent. It could also lead to increased regulation of the tech industry and more aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws.

To protect themselves from fraud and other digital threats, consumers should take steps to improve their cybersecurity. This includes using strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and being cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. Consumers should also be aware of the risks associated with subscription services like Amazon Prime, and should read the fine print carefully before signing up. If a subscription service seems too good to be true, it may be worth doing some research to make sure that it is legitimate and trustworthy.

Key Takeaways

The recent lawsuit filed by the FTC against Amazon highlights the importance of fraud prevention, cybersecurity, and consumer protection in the digital age. While Amazon Prime membership can be a valuable service for many customers, it is important to be aware of the risks and to take steps to protect oneself from fraud and other digital threats. By staying informed and taking proactive measures to improve cybersecurity, consumers can help to ensure that they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous companies or cybercriminals.


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