By Oke Kay Synder
As the sun crept over Seattle, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a shot across the bow of the SS Amazon (AMZN.O), alleging the e-commerce behemoth of trapping unsuspecting consumers into its Amazon Prime service like sirens luring sailors to their doom.
A Tale of Deception
With a sting in its tail, the FTC complaint accused Amazon of using ‘dark patterns,’ akin to the labyrinthine lairs of mythological minotaurs. These cunning, coercive, and manipulative user-interface designs hoodwinked users into signing up for automatically renewing Prime subscriptions – a trap more enticing than Odysseus’ lotus eaters. The FTC’s quest to rein in the bloated market power of Big Tech firms under President Joe Biden’s rule echoes the epic heroes of yore, albeit clad in suits and wielding subpoenas rather than swords and shields.
Raking in an astonishing $25 billion annually, Amazon Prime is the world’s largest subscription program. It promises the spoils of war to its members – fast, free shipping, bountiful discounts, and a veritable feast of movies, music, and TV series. In the United States alone, members shell out $139 per year to be a part of the exclusive club. Little did they know, they were being unwittingly drawn into a game of trickery and deceit.
The Goal of the Game
The FTC outlined that Amazon’s main mission – the Golden Fleece of its endeavors – was to increase Prime subscriber numbers. Yet, as it turns out, Amazon seemed more akin to a Greek trickster god than a benevolent provider. Consumers attempting to cancel Prime were met with an obstacle course reminiscent of the one Hercules had to traverse in his twelve labors.
The complaint from the FTC exposed Amazon’s veiled language, referring to the cancellation process as the “Iliad Flow,” a nod to the prolonged and convoluted war of Homer’s epic. Evidently, the metaphor was more apt than one would hope.
The Plot Thickens
However, the tale of Amazon’s alleged trickery doesn’t end there. In a twist fit for a Sophoclean tragedy, the FTC also accused Amazon of “intentional misconduct,” claiming it obstructed the investigation by supplying “bad faith” responses to document requests.
In response, the FTC is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction to prevent any further alleged manipulation worthy of a Greek tragedy. Amazon’s shares dropped 0.9% in the wake of the news, a minor stumble for the e-commerce titan, but perhaps a portent of more severe consequences to come.
Still, the saga continues. The FTC began its investigation into the Prime program’s sign-up and cancellation processes in March 2021. The epic narrative remains unfinished, but it seems clear that the FTC, like the vengeful Furies of Ancient Greece, is determined to see justice served.
In conclusion, consumers may have felt duped, but perhaps the last laugh is on Amazon. After all, as the old saying goes, “Pride comes before a fall,” or in this case, “Prime comes before a lawsuit.”