Amazon Loses Round In Battle Over Subscription Renewals

Amazon subscribers can proceed with claims that the company's automatic renewal process for services including Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited violates California and Oregon consumer protection laws, a federal judge ruled Monday.

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle, stemmed from a class-action complaint filed by Oregon resident Mark Daly and California residents Elena Nacarino, Susan Sylvester and Michael Sonnenschein. They alleged that they provided financial information to Amazon when they signed up for free trials of various Amazon services -- including Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited. The plaintiffs essentially alleged they didn't realize Amazon would automatically charge their accounts after the trial period ended, and that Amazon hindered their attempts to cancel the service.

Their complaint included claims that Amazon violated laws in California and Oregon that regulate how companies handle automatically renewing subscriptions. Among other requirements, both state laws say companies must provide a “timely, and easy to-use-mechanism for cancellation.”

Martinez ruled Monday that the allegations in the complaint, if true, could show that Amazon violated those mandates.

“Plaintiffs describe in their complaint multiple instances of consumers struggling to cancel their subscription, being unable to cancel via phone, failing to successfully cancel online after multiple attempts, or ultimately having to end their subscriptions by cancelling their payment methods within Amazon Settings or through their financial institutions,” he wrote.

“Accordingly, the court concludes that plaintiffs have made a prima facie showing that an [automatic renewal law] violation occurred related to the cancellation mechanisms,” he added.

The ruling comes as Amazon is facing a separate lawsuit over its Prime subscription program by the Federal Trade Commission, which alleged last year that duped consumers by using so-called “dark patterns” to lure people into purchasing Prime subscriptions and then thwarting cancellation attempts.

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