The original lawsuit, filed in June, alleged that Amazon had tricked millions into unintentionally subscribing to Prime using buttons that were prominently displayed during the checkout process. The FTC aggregate New details to back up his claims on Wednesday, including internal messages and the names of three top Amazon leaders who allegedly “played a key role” in the scheme.
The executives include two of Amazon’s top leaders at the time, Neil Lindsay, the senior vice president who oversaw Prime, and Russell Grandinetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of international consumer. The FTC also named Jamil Ghani, an Amazon vice president who oversaw the Prime subscription program.
The amended complaint accuses Amazon of using deceptive tactics to create a Prime sign-up process that customers could easily activate accidentally. Amazon employees, according to the FTC, began raising concerns with company leaders about these strategies in 2016, but those executives took no action.
For example, Amazon designers once asked Lindsay about the company’s use of dark patterns, elements of Amazon’s user interface that are supposedly intended to trick customers into subscribing to Prime. Lindsay, the suit claims, said Amazon was “agreeable” to its use. Her explanation was that “once consumers become Prime members, even without knowing it, they will see what a great program it is and will remain members.”
The amended complaint also includes new internal messages and emails indicating that Amazon and its leaders were aware of her deception. A company newsletter says, “The problem of accidental Prime subscriptions is well documented,” although it admits that Prime customers “accidentally sign up () and/or (don’t) see the auto-renewal terms.”
Once customers signed up, the FTC argues, Amazon also created an intentionally complicated cancellation process. The process was codenamed “Iliad,” in reference to Homer’s ancient epic poem.
Lindsay, the complaint adds, has internally floated the idea of making the Prime cancellation process as easy as the Prime sign-up process, but has stated that she finds the idea “scary.”
Amazon is one of many companies that the FTC has pursued in recent years in its efforts to combat the use of dark patterns. Last year, Epic Games paid 520 million dollars after the agency accused her of tricking players into purchasing in-game content. Earlier this year, the FTC also proposed an official ban on subscriptions that are easier to purchase than cancel.