Amazon’s Trojan War

By: James Flippin · June 23, 2023 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

The FTC-iege

Recently, Amazon (AMZN) found itself in the crosshairs of the US Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, over its Prime subscription program.

The agency claims Amazon enrolled customers in the service without their full knowledge and impeded efforts to cancel the membership. The regulatory body likened the Prime cancellation process to the 10-year-long Trojan War depicted in The Iliad, nicknaming it the “Iliad Flow.”

Meanwhile, Amazon maintains the FTC’s accusations are baseless, both legally and factually. In a statement, a company spokesperson said, “We make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership,” adding, “We look forward to the facts becoming clear as this case plays out.”

Trojan Horse

The FTC highlights the stark contrast between the simplicity of joining Prime and the complexity of canceling it. Customers can sign up for Prime within a mere one or two clicks. However, the cancellation process is described in the FTC’s complaint as a four-page, six-click, fifteen-option ordeal.

According to the FTC complaint, this creates a digital labyrinth of sorts for Prime members trying to withdraw from the service, increasing the likelihood they’ll give up on the process midway and remain subscribed.

The consumer protection agency claims the cancellation process, dating back to 2016, was strategically designed to deter customers from ending their subscription. It further alleges Amazon has violated laws by using deceptive tactics to both gain and retain Prime subscribers.

What’s the Impact?

Time will tell if FTC claims against Amazon leave a permanent mark on the ecommerce giant.

For investors, it’s worth noting Amazon’s stock slightly dipped following the news, reflecting mild concern over the FTC’s campaign. However, with increased scrutiny over the company’s practices, changes may be on the horizon, regardless of the outcome of the case.

The FTC’s complaint is a call for more consumer-friendly practices across the industry and may potentially result in more transparent subscription and cancellation processes. This could ultimately impact online shopping experiences for consumers and long-term value for investors.

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