Dark Patterned Future

Allegedly deceptive marketing

Due to the implementation of questionable business practices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken legal action against Amazon.  Allegedly, to convince customers to enroll in Prime subscriptions, the company has engaged in trickery.  The effort has apparently been ongoing for years and has led to the positive outcome of increased sales for the company.  In the lawsuit filed by the FTC, the agency claims that Amazon not only uses deceptive techniques for attracting customers to the Prime subscription, but also makes it difficult for existing customers to cancel their subscriptions.  Some are not even aware that the subscriptions are recurring and are renewed without their consent.

After learning of the lawsuit filing, Amazon executives have maintained that the accusations presented in the claims are unfounded.  Although Prime subscriptions account for $25 billion of Amazon’s annual revenue, the company contends that by design, it is simple and clear for their customers to both sign up and cancel subscriptions.  Amazon notes the value of customer feedback and its application to improving the overall customer experience.  Despite these assurances, and under the intense pressure of the FTC, Amazon has modified its subscription cancellation process.

The FTC has identified the tactics used by Amazon as dark patterns, or subtle messaging and design features crafted to make an offer or content more attractive to a potential consumer.  The intent of using dark patterns is to manipulate customers into purchasing a service or product that will directly contribute to stronger conversion and revenue streams.  In this case, Amazon allegedly arranged dark patterns that convinced customers to unknowingly purchase items and share user data.  This is not the first time that the FTC has gone to bat against Amazon.  Earlier this year, the company agreed to pay $25 million to settle a lawsuit that accused its Alexa device of illegally collecting information on children.