TACD and 16 members take action against Amazon’s use of dark patterns

You can log out, but you can never leave - NCC report on Amazon Prime

On January 14th, 2020, a total 17 of consumer groups took action against the use of dark patterns by Amazon. The action was based on the report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) entitled: “You can log out, but you can never leave: How Amazon manipulates consumers to keep them subscribed to Amazon Prime“. The publication of this report was followed up by a legal complaint against Amazon in Norway.

Unsubscribing from Amazon is a deceptive, unlawful ordeal

The NCC report found that in the process of unsubscribing from Amazon Prime, the company manipulates consumers to continue using the service in what seems like a deliberate attempt to confuse and frustrate customers.

These dark patterns, or manipulative design, are features of user interface design that nudge or push consumers into making choices that are in the best interest of the service provider, rather than in the interest of the consumer. This may include that certain options are easier to choose than others, that consumers are tricked into giving consent to sharing personal data, and many other practices.

Amazon Prime appears to be one of the ugliest examples of how companies attempt to manipulate and confuse consumers into keep paying for a service – and therefore it is a good case for a complaint that could set a precedence for how service providers should present information and choices to users.

Transatlantic cooperation

The publication was followed up by various actions from seven other countries. In the U.S., seven TACD members sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

In Europe, consumer organisations (Consumentenbond in the Netherlands, Forbrugerraadet in Denmark, EKPIZO and KEPKA in Greece, UFC-Que Choisir in France, and the FRC in Switzerland) reached out to their respective consumer protection authorities, urging them to look into the matter.

In addition, TACD has sent a letter to the FTC, supporting its U.S. members action, as well as joint letters with European member organisation BEUC to the European Commission and European Parliament, asking them to investigate those practices of Amazon and to take appropriate enforcement measures, but also more generally take action to tackle the increasing use of dark patterns online.

“With more than 120 million Prime members in the U.S. alone, Amazon doesn’t need to subvert, confuse, and misdirect consumers who want to cancel their Prime membership. Americans from all walks of life are counting on online platforms like Amazon to serve basic daily needs during the pandemic. Amazon should treat customers with respect instead of trying to undermine their autonomy and fight their decisions.”

  • Burcu Kilic, director of Public Citizen’s digital rights program and U.S. co-chair of TACD Digital committee.

“It should be as easy to end a subscription as it was to subscribe in the first place. Amazon should facilitate a good user experience instead of hindering customers and tricking them into continuing paid services they do not need or want.”

  • Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, Director of Digital Policy at the Norwegian Consumer Council, and EU co-chair of TACD Digital Committee


  • All resources from the NCC on this action are available here.
  • TACD’s 2019 report “Privacy in the EU and US: Consumer experiences across three global platforms” is available here.