Amazon Subscriptions Too Hard to Cancel? Judge Says Consumers Have a Case

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Consumers say they signed up for trials of services like Prime and Kindle, then became locked into subscriptions they didn’t want

Amazon subscriptions to services like Prime and Kindle are way too difficult to cancel, a proposed class action lawsuit alleges – and now a federal judge has ruled the plaintiffs have a point.

On Feb. 26, Judge Ricardo S. Martinez gave the green light to a class action lawsuit brought in a Seattle court by a group of California and Oregon consumers. The consumers say they signed up for a free trial service through Amazon, then got roped into a subscription they couldn’t get out of. 

Plaintiffs Mark Daly, Elena Nacarino, Susan Sylvester and Michael Sonnenschein say, after they and others signed up for trials to services like Amazon Prime, Amazon Kindle and Audible, they were automatically subscribed to the services without their knowledge. 

They allege Amazon then made it “exceedingly difficult” for them to cancel their subscriptions – violating California and Oregon consumer laws. The group is looking to represent anyone else in those states who also got hit with unauthorized charges for the renewal of unwanted Amazon subscriptions.

Consumers say they had to cancel their credit cards to stop Amazon payments

The plaintiffs say Amazon made it so hard to cancel the subscriptions, they were forced to go to extremes – even canceling their credit and debit cards to stop the payments from coming out.

Daly, an Oregon resident, says he signed up for a trial of Amazon Prime in March 2022, not knowing he’d be automatically charged for a subscription at the end of the trial period. 

When the surprise subscription charges came out the next two months, he says he got slammed with overdraft fees. Daly says he called Amazon to cancel, but a customer service representative told him they couldn’t do it, and couldn’t refund him, either. Finding the cancellation process “obscure, confusing, and time-consuming,” he says he contacted his bank to cancel his card. 

California resident Sylvester says she had a similar issue when she bought a Kindle reader in 2019, and was told it came with three free months of the Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription. However, she soon noticed the “supposed free trial Amazon Subscription was not, in fact, free,” the lawsuit alleges. 

Sylvester called multiple times to cancel the subscription, but says it kept coming out – for 25 months. “Only after her third call was her subscription canceled, but she only received a refund for 12 of the 25 charges,” the class action states.

Consumer stories could show violation of the law, judge rules

Judge Martinez says the consumers’ claims could show that California and Oregon’s automatic renewal laws were violated. 

The laws require businesses to disclose subscription terms to customers, get consent from the customers before charging their credit cards and provide them with a way to easily cancel.

However, plaintiffs in the Amazon subscription class action describe struggling to cancel their subscriptions over the phone, failing to cancel online after multiple attempts, or ultimately having to end their subscriptions by canceling payment methods through their banks, Judge Martinez says. His order rejects Amazon’s attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.

“The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have made a prima facie showing that an [Automatic Renewal Law] violation occurred related to the cancellation mechanisms,” he writes.

Feds say Amazon ‘tricked and trapped’ consumers 

The news comes as Amazon faces another lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission alleging the company ran a years-long effort to enroll consumers into its Prime program without their consent while “knowingly making it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscriptions.”

In a lawsuit filed last June, the agency alleges Amazon knowingly duped millions of consumers into enrolling in Amazon Prime through tricky user-interface designs known as “dark patterns.” It says Amazon then knowingly complicated the cancellation process to trap consumers into the subscription. 

In addition to the FTC lawsuit, Amazon is also embroiled in a separate class action over the fairness of its 'Buy Box'. This lawsuit accuses Amazon of biasing its 'Buy Box' algorithm towards products that generate higher fees for the company, potentially deceiving consumers into paying more for goods. 

The plaintiffs in the Amazon subscriptions class action lawsuit are seeking compensation for Oregon and California consumers who might have unwittingly been subscribed to Amazon subscriptions they didn’t want, in violation of California and Oregon Automatic Renewal Laws.

The class action looks to represent consumers who got charged unwanted subscriptions for Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon Subscription Boxes, Amazon Kids+ (formerly FreeTime Unlimited), Amazon Photos, Amazon Subscribe & Save, Kindle Unlimited, Audible Plus and Audible Premium Plus. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Wright A. Noel of Carson Noel PLLC and Philip L. Fraietta, Frederick J. Klorczyk III, Neal J. Deckant and Julia K. Venditti of Bursor & Fisher PA.

The Amazon subscription cancellation class action lawsuit is Daly et al. v. Amazon.com, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:22-cv-00910-RSM in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle.

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