Feb 8 | 2021

UX Dark Pattern of the Week: Amazon

by Dave Robertson

This story actually broke a few weeks ago, but it only came to my attention as I was researching for something to write on this topic. Amazon’s in hot water, it seems, with authorities in both Europe and the US about how difficult it is to cancel its Prime service (article link). The full report by the Norwegian Consumer Council makes for some particularly interesting reading.

This doesn’t come as a particular surprise to me, because it’s clear that Prime growth is one of Amazon’s major objectives, and has been for a while. You only have to make the decision not to subscribe to Prime in the first place to understand just how important it is to them – you get bombarded with adverts and sometimes dark patterns at each stage of purchase. It actually becomes quite hard not to accidentally sign up to Prime (even if you’re really careful). The ASA in the UK actually ruled a couple of years ago that the following pattern was misleading (and others like it):

amazon-dark-pattern

What Amazon is clearly doing is 1) making sure that it’s really really difficult to avoid signing up in the first place – either because it looks like a good idea, or they want you to take a free trial that you don’t cancel and 2) making it tricky to cancel, by doing things like setting auto-renew to on by default (a common trick) and making you click through loads of pages before they actually let you cancel. I’ve done a short recording of the process on the UK Android app here – and it looks to be similar to the one in the Norwegian study.

   

   

Let’s be honest – I can understand why Amazon would want to do this if Prime is a big thing for them, but from a user’s perspective if it’s easy to sign up it should be easy to cancel. After all, it’s just a value in a computer system that needs changing.

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