Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart ci Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart cities, and the future of alternative energy sources like electric batteries, solar, and hydrogen.
The pain of unsubscribing from Amazon Prime is over – at least if you live in Europe.
There’s definitely power in numbers. From now on, consumers from the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) can unsubscribe from Amazon Prime with just two clicks, using a prominent and clear “cancel button.”
Compare this to the previous process which included numerous steps such as these:
How did the change come about?
It’s all thanks to extensive lobbying by EU and EEA consumer organizations. They authored a masterly titled 2021 report “You Can Log Out, But You Can Never Leave.”
Why is canceling Amazon Prime such a pain in the ass?
The report describes the process of canceling an Amazon Prime account as “riddled with a combination of manipulative design techniques, known as ‘dark patterns’” – interfaces designed to trick you.
In other words, consumers who want to leave the service face many hurdles. These include complicated navigation menus, skewed wording, confusing choices, and repeated nudging. This process breaches EU rules on consumer protection aimed at limiting the hold Big Tech has on individual consumers.
Unfortunately, despite being home to these same unwieldy practices, there’s no commitment to change the subscription cancellation process in the US — But here’s a step-by-step process to cancel your subscription.
Next up, auto-renewals – please?
In the US, there is a movement around those pesky auto-renewal subscriptions. They can leave you paying for a product months after an initial free trial, unless you opt-out.
Over 20 states have passed automatic renewal laws. For example, from the start of this month, businesses selling automatic renewal plans to California consumers with yearly subscriptions must send reminders 15 to 45 days before the renewal date reminding them of their autorenewal, unless canceled.
But while state laws are progressing, there’s no federal legislation.
This means US national consumer law now lags way behind the EU, especially Germany, which introduced a strong consumer protection subscriber law earlier this year.
In 2019, a group of US politicians introduced a bill in 2019. It’s called the Unsubscribe Act, and would enforce national regulations. But it’s yet to move through the necessary channels for a vote.
Oddly some of the biggest consumer law backers are Visa and Mastercard, which have introduced strict requirements for merchants in response to customer complaints and lawsuits.
This week reinforces the power of the EU/EEA as a collective critical mass when it comes to consumer protection. It’s questionable whether US consumer protection will ever be able to reach parity while states pick up the slack. Therefore, many customers are left fighting individual companies and resorting to lawsuits.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.