back to article UK ads watchdog slaps Amazon for UX dark arts after folk bought Prime subs they didn't want

Amazon has been rapped by Britain's advertising watchdog after its baffling online payments page duped customers into signing up for an Prime subscription as they tried to pay for goods. The trick, which falls squarely within the online category of "dark UX", was designed to confuse Amazon users into signing up for the £8/ …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    And not a moment too soon.

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: Hooray!!!

      Actually about 10 years too late. I fell for an earlier version of this, and haven’t bought anything from Amazon since.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hooray!!!

        Same here. Wife accidently signed up to Prime. But we don't figure in Amazons "defence" where they claim only a tiny number of people cancelled within 3 days of signing up to Prime. Well, yes, that would be because most people duped into it would take advantage of the 30 day free trial and only then cancel it... That number would make much better reading.

        Having said that, we used the Prime streaming thing thoroughly during the free 30 day trial and all it really did was put me off ever subscribing to it. Not only is hard to browse, ie you are not searching for a specific show, but interspersed with all the Amazon stuff are other "channels" not part of Prime which you have to pay even more for. So took the free Netflix trial, found that everything on display in the menus is part of the subscription, and stayed with that on the cheapest option. (single screen, no HD, £5.99)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Hooray!!!

          "Not only is hard to browse, ie you are not searching for a specific show, but interspersed with all the Amazon stuff are other "channels" not part of Prime which you have to pay even more for."

          Same search engine as the shop, then.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hooray!!!

          "[...] and all it really did was put me off ever subscribing to it."

          As I rarely order from Amazon - they usually offer me the free Prime trial. Easier to accept it than try to pay for postage. Then I cancel it after a few days - and it continues for free for the rest of the 30 days in case I might want to buy another item. I just ignore the several pleading emails wanting me to change my mind.

          The rest of the Prime "advantages" are happily ignored - nothing there I want.

  2. Alan Sharkey

    My Dad got caught by this - many times

    He's 90 but still uses the internet and Amazon. He's been caught by this a few times now and I've had to remote connect to his machine and cancel it (which is NOT easy).

    I wasn't aware we could complain.


    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Well they didn't complain to Amazon, they complained to the ASA, who proceeded to do its job.

      Well done there, ASA. Good to see that there are some government functionaries that actually have teeth.

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Advertising Standards Authority Ltd is a private company based in Shoreditch. Adland has a gentleman's agreement that they won't sue the ASA for embarrassing them publicly.

        Oddly enough the ASA also "rules" against companies (well, small and micro-businesses) who don't subscribe to its various rules and so on. I assume the policy is 1) never target a non-subscribing company with any financial reserves and 2) adland agrees to cover their legal fees if a one-man band does get legally angry.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Sadly the ASA decline to regulate political advertising.

          I reported the Liberal Democrat advertisements anyway, as their very name is false advertising.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            >I reported the Liberal Democrat advertisements anyway, as their very name is false advertising.

            Conservative and unionist isn't looking too good either

            1. a pressbutton

              In the interests of balance

              Not sure how many of the Labour party MPs have actually worked - or laboured

              Not sure how many of the Green Party are Green

              however pretty sure most of SNP are scottish and nationalist

              1. Tigra 07

                Re: In the interests of balance

                What about the Monster Raving Loony Party?

                1. BigSLitleP

                  Re: In the interests of balance


                  1. Robert Sneddon

                    Re: In the interests of balance

                    DNA testing suggests otherwise.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: In the interests of balance


                    They are in danger of having an inaccurate name. Several of their sensible polices over the decades have been implemented by the mainstream parties.

                2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: In the interests of balance

                  >What about the Monster Raving Loony Party?

                  Least accurate - given the competition in last few years they may have to rename themselves "sensible and moderate party"

              2. Rich 11

                Re: In the interests of balance

                The English Democrats are overwhelmingly English but given that ex-BNP and early anti-Faragist Ukippers joined them I think we can be pretty sure that their long-term plan for England isn't democracy.

                1. BebopWeBop

                  Re: In the interests of balance

                  Yes - back to the old joke about any conutry with a 'democrat' in the title (GDR etc) not being.

                2. veti Silver badge

                  Re: In the interests of balance

                  I dunno, fascism can be very popular.

                  That's one of the biggest arguments for keeping democracy on a tight leash. We've seen it played out on both sides of the Atlantic since 2016.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: In the interests of balance

                    "I dunno, fascism can be very popular."

                    That is the nature of the beast. It appeals to voters with a simple solution to their troubles - that only needs them to agree to a tyrant's powers. The current scenario in many countries proves it is always resurgent if a crisis can be manufactured.

              3. BebopWeBop

                Re: In the interests of balance

                Quite a lot of them in my experience anyway are Welsh and English but live in Scotland

    2. DanielsLateToTheParty

      Re: My Dad got caught by this - many times

      My mum got caught by this several times and is now a dab hand at the somehow-even-more-cryptic cancelling process. Then she got a call claiming that she had been signed up again, which is totally believable, but it was a scam and the fraudsters managed to gather enough information to start a payment of £3000! Luckily the bank stopped it as suspicious but it just goes to show that Amazon is confusing enough people for it to become an issue.

    3. VinceH

      Re: My Dad got caught by this - many times

      "He's 90 but still uses the internet and Amazon. He's been caught by this a few times now and I've had to remote connect to his machine and cancel it (which is NOT easy)."

      My step dad also, some time back. He hadn't even realised he'd done it until the payment was taken. My youngest brother (learning difficulties) has also been caught out by it. In both cases, I got it cancelled and refunded.

      A short while back, I was ordering something on behalf of my mum, and it was a case of if I wasn't there and she was ordering herself, she would have been caught. As it was, there was some cursing on my part as I looked for the way to NOT sign her up to the 30 day trial.

      Any claim on Amazon's part that people want this is total bullshit.

    4. Mr Humbug

      My most recent 30-day Prime trial started accidentally too - I think because of the same advert. I definitely didn't click 'yes get Prime', I clicked the other option and only then realised it was also 'yes give me Prime'.

      Fortunately I've used the 30-day trial often enough that I know where to click 'Cancel Prime', 'Yes really cancel', 'I want to lose my benefits', 'End the Prime trial'.

      By the way, if you are prepared to go through a bit of hoop-jumping and have twelve email addresses (and who doesn't) then you can have Prime on a continuaous series of 30-day free trials

      1. AndyMulhearn

        I had the same on a recent purchase - there was no option to not sign up for it, in fact IIRC it was a "we've given you a free trial" rather than "Want to sign up for a free trial?" I'll still cancel it in 30 days but until then will make use of the free delivery on some stuff.

        All-in-all a pretty unsavoury practice and one they quite rightly should be censured for.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My Prime subscription started accidentally like this too.

        But I let it run on as my partner's credit card with her prime subscription was about to expire and we take it in turns with the Prime subscription.

        The downside: she keeps messaging me with things she wants me to get on the prime account.

        The upside: she just got a new credit card, and my card attached to the prime account expires in a couple of months. Excuse me while I go and peruse Amazon for a few hours...

        1. Is It Me

          You can share the prime free delivery with a few people (can't remember the number), so that would stop you having to do the shopping.

      3. Mage Silver badge

        Prime, KDP Select, Kindle Unlimited, Subscriptions

        Prime, KDP Select, Kindle Unlimited, Subscriptions are all evil when it's a retailer.

        They also cheat content providers of Royalties.

        Subscriptions result in consumers paying MORE than buying what you want when you want. A tax on the poorer people subsidising big consumers.

        Amazon is building monopolies. It needs broken up and regulated. So does Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

        Sadly ASA and the Irish equivalent are not real regulators. Unfortunately real ones like Ofcom and Comreg ended up being "Captured" by Mobile Operators and previous incumbents.

        Certain Data and Financial regulators have been poor. However USA is much worse (FCC, ICANN, Opioids etc).

      4. Andrew Jones 2

        Do they have decent systems in place to spot this or are they literally just matching the email address? By this mean can I get away with then I don't need to create 12 actual email addresses?

        1. Mr Humbug

          I don't know. I haven't tried for the full 12 months because there are only some times that I want to use Prime. I think I have four accounts with different e-mail addresses* but same name, delivery address, credit card and phone number. When I really need something quickly I just find out which one hasn't had a Prime trial in the last 12 months and sign up, order, then cancel Prime. The trial then lasts for 30 days.

          It can also be useful for the occasional "Prime-only-one-per-customer" items too, if you need more than one of them

          * For "reasons" I have a few domains so they are all me@somedomain

    5. veti Silver badge

      Re: My Dad got caught by this - many times

      You can always complain. The question is, to whom?

      1. AndyD 8-)₹

        To be fair...

        I got caught (still not sure exactly what I clicked) and didn't notice for eight months; when I phoned and complained, saying I had never knowingly signed up for Prime, I was refunded in full within a couple of days.

    6. Elephantpm

      Re: My Dad got caught by this - many times

      I did complain to the ASA and they told me they needed lots of complaints before they could take action. So when they do it again it is worth complaining.

  3. SPiT

    What we need now is a class action against Amazon invalidating the Prime contract forcing them to repay everyone who signed up via this method since no valid contract exists (that is pretty much what the ASA verdict means)

    1. Wayland

      I've got Amazon Prime. I was tricked into it by the above method but keep it because of the faster delivery. I suspect nobody signed up o Prime on purpose since they would have been tricked into it long before.

      I also don't know what I get with Prime. There seems to be some sort of TV service but because it's so confusing I don't know if this is included or extra.

      1. GreggS

        Prime Video is included as is their Prime music service, but not their Music unlimited one.

        1. MrReynolds2U

          Prime Video... where pretty much everything you want to watch requires you to "buy or rent" from the store.

          1. Cynic_999


            ... where pretty much everything you want to watch requires you to "buy or rent" from the store.


            I disagree. I have watched several boxsets that I enjoyed that were included with the Prime subscription.

            While I consider Prime to be good value for what I use Amazon for, I disagree with the sneaky tactics Amazon use to get people to sign up to it

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I eventually decided that it was in fact worth my while consciously and deliberately signing up to Amazon Prime, but actually more for the video and music services than anything else. I don't buy a huge amount of stuff from Amazon, but the free delivery is a nice bonus. The music service is annoyingly a bit of a teaser, so probably a good 1/3 of what I'd like to listen to requires a more expensive subscription (which is annoying, and also a bit underhand), but it's not bad. On the video service, I am eagerly (if that's the right word) awaiting the new series of "The Man In The High Castle", am currently bingeing on "Lost" (which originally I had to give up on when pay tv grabbed the later series), and have seen a reasonable number of reasonably good films (I will admit that the range of included films is perhaps also a bit limited). But it's not a bad service, for a reasonable price (although I probably wouldn't bother if it was more expensive, just in case anyone is watching).

              I agree that the shifty UI to try to force/fool people into subscribing is very dubious, however, and I am pleased that Amazon have been taken to task about that.

      2. ivan5

        It would help i9f when you signed up to prime your membership carried over to other Amazon areas. Example, I signed up for faster delivery with but also use but I don't get the faster delivery from the UK - why not?

        1. GreggS

          They can't guarantee next day across international borders, so they offer "free" for most items to Prime members. Having said that, i ordered from, got free international delivery and it was delivered within a day.

          1. Robert Sneddon

            Handy thing to know

            If you order something under Prime with guaranteed next-day delivery and you don't get it in the specified time then contact Amazon (email or phone). They'll extend your Prime membership by 30 days free. You can do this a few times in a given year's subscription but not forever.

            It takes a year or so for a cancelled "free 30-day" Prime subscription to reset -- if you're really worried about elderly relatives getting caught out you can simply get them to use it once a year then cancel it for them if needs be. Xmas would be a good time, if they're buying pressies for all and sundry then cancel it in January.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          "I don't get the faster delivery from the UK - why not?"

          Because they're trying to make more money from you, obv.

      3. Snapper

        You get higher prices for the same item. What do you think pays for Prime?

      4. Sureo

        Faster Delivery

        They appear to use the same delivery method anyway, and sometimes it arrives just as fast as with prime. Probably is a bother to slow the delivery down.

      5. Azium

        I do have Prime, and I did subscribe voluntarily. But it was after Amazon sent me an email saying 'do you realise you spent £155 on delivery in the last 12 months' ...

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      UK law doesn't have 'class actions' (there is group litigation, but that's slightly different).

      Unless you're talking about doing it in the US, in which case good luck. As far as I can tell the US deliberately doesn't have any laws which might get in the way of making profits.

    3. Not Enough Coffee

      Heh, class action. What you'll probably end up with is a coupon good for a free month of Prime.

  4. Dave Pickles

    Been there, done that

    To punish them I placed several low-value orders on 1-day delivery and then cancelled before the 30 day free trial ended.

    1. Mast1

      Re: Been there, done that

      Happened to me over a year ago. Could not find link on page to "Continue without signing up for Prime". Less than 30 days later, tried to cancel and eventually found the hard-to-find "Cancel subscription" link. Then went through pages of "Are you sure ?", "Are you really sure?", "Are you really, really sure ?".

      Scrapped my account there and then and will not use them. Amazon, the Ryanair of retail sales.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Been there, done that

        Yup, been signed up a couple of times myself *in spite* of trying very hard not to sign up and looking for the 'just bloody let me pay' button.

        Cancelled immediately (via pages and pages of 'are you sure?') on both occasions, though apparently still had the alleged benefits for a month.

      2. Christoph

        Re: Been there, done that

        Same thing here. The sign up says "Welcome to Prime" without any confirmation whatever, but the carefully hidden cancellation repeatedly asks "Do you really want to lose all these wonderful benefits?"

      3. Fred Dibnah

        Re: Been there, done that

        When I'd seen first hand at what they were doing to put independent bookshops out of business, I cancelled my Amazon account. It was some years ago, and I had to write a real, hard-copy, snail mail cancellation letter and post it to them, no emails allowed. Despite this being an obvious ploy to deter people I did it anyway, and sent it recorded delivery - ha. Apparently the rule now (from the EU I guess) is that they have to offer an online cancellation method, although it sounds like they are pushing that to its limits as well.

        I haven't missed them one tiny bit.

  5. Mike Shepherd

    The product is so good...

    ...we have to sneak it into your order.

  6. alain williams Silver badge

    It is not just Amazon

    Many, many web sites have their desired action (usually you paying more) highlighted nice & big and the alternative to one side and smaller. It is easy to see how many are bamboozled by such tactics and have little recourse when they realise that hard earned cash has been syphoned from their credit card.

    Then there are those that pre-tick the 'please send me spam' check boxes - they are not allowed to do this.

    Even if you un-tick these boxes you often get spam, until you complain/unsubscribe - often having to do it more than once.

    I am facing an issue with Direct Line car insurance. They have decided that my insurance will auto-renew. I never agreed to this, I have told them several times 'no'. If they take the cash I will tell the credit card company that it was not authorised and push a complaint of theft with the police.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

      Re: It is not just Amazon

      Re the insurance issue, you are looking at it wrong. Their authorisation to take your money from you automatically is an "approved industry process" buried on page 14 of the terms and conditions in a white four point font. Did you not read it?

      It's a customer benefit you see. Designed to ensure that you as a loyal customer (A) do not drive without insurance - because you can't be trusted, (B) so that you are forced to waste time calling them on a premium rate number so that they can try to charge you more than last year to renew, and (C) to charge you more than new customers rather than rewarding your loyalty.

      Benefits eh?

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: It is not just Amazon

        I renew vehicle insurance only by phone after written quotations, and I explicitly state during that call that the insurer *does not have a continuing mandate to auto-renew*. That way, it's hopefully on the call recording, and so far there has not been an issue.

        Many years ago, I had an issue with an insurer quoting a ridiculous price, being told no, and then going ahead and starting the policy (and charging me) anyway. It's amazing how fast things get escalated when your response to 'how can I help you?' is 'you can return the money you just stole from me'...

        Even then, the company tried to get me to tell them with whom I was insured, claiming that it was illegal for them to cancel a policy without their knowing that another policy was in place... it wasn't then, and I don't believe it to be now, and I told them it was none of their business. Things got quite heated, but I got the refund (though they tried to charge me a cancellation fee - I didn't pay that, either).

        I have not dealt with the company since (well, not directly, but given that the major insurers all seem to be in bed with each other, I may have had dealings with one of their subsidiaries, siblings, or owners).

    2. I am the liquor

      Re: It is not just Amazon

      Amazon's tactics are a step on from the common "expensive option prominent/cheap option hidden away" design. They inserted a medium-prominence "alternative" option, to make you think you've rejected the expensive option, but which is really the same. You have to admire the inventiveness, even as you're appalled by their moral degeneracy.

    3. Steve 114

      Direct Line, caution

      I use Direct Line, declined auto renewal. Last trip to the far north, my own error very nearly had me rammed at speed on a roundabout, Back home days later, I noticed that my cover had already expired. The bad luck of mere milliseconds would have bankrupted me. On auto-renewal now; they are forced to give you weeks to get other quotes anyway

  7. Joe Harrison

    They've done it for years

    It's not just the dodgy coloured boxes; I remember when it would go something like "Do you want Prime?" NO. Are you sure you don't want Prime?" YES.

    "Are you definitely sure you don't want not to avoid opting out of not having the benefits of Prime?" WTF.

    1. Rich 11

      Re: They've done it for years

      It'll reach the point where people will save money by taking out a hit on Jeff Bezos.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon was ordered to fix its payments page

    I'm sure Amazon already have, on stand-by, several other, equally helpful options to replace this one. And so, the merry game of whack-a-mole continues. Watch this space after black Friday for new "revelations" and "investigations" by ASA...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amazon 'Black Friday Deals'

      Oh, you mean all the very old 'tat' that hasn't sold since the last 'Black Friday'...?

      I'm sure 99% of it falls into that category. In 3 years of looking at the deals, I have not found anything that I needed or wanted to buy and that's before looking at the prices.

      This whole Amazon Prime trap is just one of the reasons why I loathe having to buy even a bent nail from them. I do pity the poor sods who work there. Having to carry bottles so that they can take a leak rather than be allowed time to us a proper toilet is really going back to the days of slavery. Their (Amazon's that is) ethos suck big time.

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

        Re: Amazon 'Black Friday Deals'

        Where do you buy your bent nails from then? Do you use them for doing DIY around corners?

        1. Rich 11

          Re: Amazon 'Black Friday Deals'

          They're handy for nailing strong magnets together.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Amazon 'Black Friday Deals'

          >Where do you buy your bent nails from then? Do you use them for doing DIY around corners?

          There are still artisan makers of specialist DIY products you can't get in big box stores

          Pre-bent nails, stripped screw heads and plasterboard with hammer marks already included.

          It's a great time saver for the clumsy, yet busy, diy-er

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

    But cancel it just at the right time so he stays up there, along with Starman in the Tesla.

    Does anyone know if Amazon's exhausted their merry-go-round of dark pattern UIs for Prime yet and gone back to the first one from ten years ago?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

      I'm just waiting for that old Powerpoint joke with the do you want Prime YES/NO choice to come up. But as soon as you hover your mouse over the NO button, it moves to the other side of the page - leaving you no choice but to click on the YES button.

      I'm using the Joke Alert icon only so people know that if when Amazon do this, it wasn't my idea.

    2. Dr. Vagmeister

      Re: Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

      On another website that which featured a story about Bezos going to the moon, i did write in the comments section about he could spend his money on more worthy such as battery technology research, or fusion.

      My last comment must have wrangled the others, as all i said was, once these aspects of civilisation have been solved, then by all means, f*ck off to the moon.

      I had 77 downvotes and zero upvotes. I thought my comment was funny, but obviously not.

      On subject - i too have to scrutinise the payment - one big button for enrol in Prime, tiny text to say "no, continue without prime". So obviously a con.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

        Big deal. I posted on a space thread here, let's sort earth out before we move on.

        Masses of downvotes and personal insults!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

          Well that sucks!


          Not much.

          Very little actually.

          I think you deserved everything you got.

        2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

          How about letting people spend their money on they want to, instead of expecting they spend it on what's important to you (and, granted, to others, but that's besides the point).

        3. Carpet Deal 'em

          Re: Join Prime, it's for a good cause, you too can put Bezos into space

          That's because sorting out earth can't be done, so making the argument we should fix things down here first is the same as saying we should never go up there. That said, there's indication that there being new frontiers to settle acted as a social release valve, so colonizing space will likely prove helpful in any event.

  10. Andy Non Silver badge

    Prime is basically a scam.

    It is a pain in the arse looking to see where they've hidden or obscured the option to proceed without signing up for Prime. On one particular layout a year or two ago I couldn't even see the way to proceed without signing up for Prime so I completely abandoned my order and bought elsewhere. Their persistence to force Prime onto me is more than equally matched by my determination never to sign up for it.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Prime is basically a scam.

      Then they make random things only available to Prime subscribers.

      Fortunately, there are other retailers. They are often cheaper, and usually quicker.

      1. Tromos

        Re: Prime is basically a scam.

        I've taken advantage of one of those offers without being subscribed to Prime. I added the product in question to my basket and proceeded through checkout whilst being very careful at every stage to ensure there are no boxes ticked signing me up to anything else. I chose free 3-5 day delivery as the order was over £20, and checked that the final price was exactly the amount on the initial offer page. The item duly arrived in 3 days. I was charged the 'Prime subscribers' price, months have gone by and no attempts made to collect subscription money, so I reckon these so-called "special prices" are just another piece of bait.

        If you see one of these offers and want it, try going through the purchase process. If it's genuinely Prime only, it should either stop you or ask you to add a prime subscription. If you don't like what's on the final order summary page, bail out before giving final confirmation.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think there should be regulation to force all free trials of subscription services to end with cancellation by default - you have to actually opt in if you want to stay subscribed.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      That's now my response. I won't sign up to any free trial that requires a card payment, usually where you're just paying for "delivery" - because you know that's where they're going to get the payment if you fail to cancel. Nobody seems to have any faith that people will miss their free trial when it stops, and so want to sign up to it.

      1. 's water music

        cancelling prime trials

        I have signed up for prime trials (on purpose) several times. My kids also always want to whenever they are buying anything with their amazon accounts because PFYs hate to wait for deliveries. I think the first time I signed up, it was made pretty clear that you could instantly cancel and would still get the 30 days of free next-day delivery but last time I did it they made it sound like cancellation would stop the benefits immediately, so encouraging you to forget to cancel later.

        I thin the one time that someone forgot to cancel in time and was charged for the fist month they did get a pro-rated refund so that actual amount billed was pretty small.

        You have to assume that Amazon will always be evil and if you can't see the scam, you haven't looked hard enough so I work hard to instill paranoia and suspicion into my kids

  12. Jemma

    Prime is evil..

    But their customer service is worse, cretinous online chats that don't leave a paper trail so good luck if they stiff you. No email address, no phone. Still nothing as bad as calling the No Hope Service GP - a perky fucking idiot telling you *every.15.seconds* you are on hold - brilliant, let's give everyone over 30 a fucking stroke because of the frustration of thinking every 15 seconds for half an *hour* that some person (who has no clue anyway) is going to answer the phone.

    Deals that change between you clicking on them and trying to pay - by going up 150% - ooh, trading standards, who them?

    It's a shame when you think that Amazon could actually be good for everyone concerned with a few fairly minor changes (to Bezos income).

    PS don't try to use PayPal with a VPN, just really really don't. Even if you are a bdsm oddball to the point of auditioning for Hellraiser:The Series.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Prime is evil..

      Prime is actually quite good and useful for some, it's just these sales techniques that are evil.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prime is evil..

        I haven't looked into how useful Prime might be. Their awful techniques at selling it have convinced me it's worthless.

      2. DCFusor
        Thumb Up

        Re: Prime is evil..

        I'm one of those - I live on the hind end of nowhere (Appalachian mountains), and for me, it's a good deal, despite Amazon prices usually being a bit higher than retail - after all, to collect those retail prices, I might have to drive north of 75 miles each way - there is time and cost to that.

        Ordering from say McMaster-Carr, Digikey - you have minimum orders, and usually IPS charging around $15 to deliver something around 1 lb or less. Until recently, even Adafruit only shipped UPS - you pay less total getting their stuff from Amazon! Even now that Ada ships USPS - there's this nasty S&H charge. Amazon does beat prices for a number of things I could get locally, but which are in low demand and very marked up around here. Even canned half the price of the grocery store if you look and are patient - get a case lot, which you can't get - or that pricing - locally.

        At 59 orders in the last 6 months - my fixed-income bank account loves Amazon, even if I don't like their politics, and how they sometimes handle customer service - it's been rare to need it, and variable when I have - sometimes great, sometimes awful. It's very good to have their phone #, which is a bit hard to find...if you ever get the one for your area save it somewhere for future use! Forget the chat stuff other than for simple return-replacement.

        As a subscriber on a yearly basis, I don't see those dark patterns, it doesn't arise. Since using them extensively, I've seen a large lifestyle per dollar improvement. What I pay for prime works out to around $1 per shipment...

        So it's a good deal for me - I suppose that others subsidize it, in effect. Thanks, people!

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Prime is evil..

      I have Prime. Get to watch films when I'm bored, listen to a fair bit of music, and free quick delivery for a lot of stuff. For the latter, I've probably saved more money than the subs cost.

      Prime itself isn't inherently evil. The sales push is.

      "cretinous online chats that don't leave a paper trail so good luck if they stiff you"

      Strange, most of my communications with Amazon are by email, except the things like "why was my panier order delivered somewhere else yesterday?" which got a phone call literally 45 seconds later.

      I got the idiotic online chat when asking Skype why my account was locked out when I'd just created it. So I just took periodic screenshots. Where there's a will, there's a way...

      "Deals that change between you clicking on them and trying to pay" - how is that even legal?

      "don't try to use PayPal with a VPN" - I use a virtual credit card with PayPal, where literally every purchase is a different card number. That gets the machine a bit stressy. They haven't, at least, done anything dumb like freezing my account for fraud...yet. And, no, there's NO way in hell I'm giving PayPal access to a real bank account.

      1. cantankerous swineherd

        Re: Prime is evil..

        "NO way in hell I'm giving PayPal access to a real bank account." - how does that work?

        1. DCFusor

          Re: Prime is evil..

          There's a trick. Get another checking account at your bank. Associate a debit card with it.

          Turn off any overdraft protection - you want to limit liability to what you keep in there.

          Use this card for all online activity.

          Don't keep over around 20 bucks in the account, except for doing an online transfer into it from another account seconds before hitting the place your order button.

          Hacks all gone. I got hacked a couple times years ago. Zero since I started doing this, and all my online stuff gets its own bank statements to keep track as well.

    3. Timmy B

      Re: Prime is evil..

      I've found their support is often pretty good.

      Are you in the US? Does it differ across regions I wonder. I'm in the UK. I always get chat transcripts emailed to me after the conversation and there is a "call me" option right next to the chat one.

      I've never had them quibble about returns and when something really bad went wrong they bent over backwards to sort it out.

  13. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse


    Yup - I've been caught by myself this several time despite being totally IT savvy. Although to be fair, I have then gone on to use their free trial to my advantage on several occasions, and it is very easy to cancel.

  14. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

    EVERY time I go to use Paypal to buy something from fleaBay I get asked the question of whether I want to link my Paypal account to my fleaBay account.

    The options are "Yes Please" and "Maybe Later" ...... where the fsck is the "No, and stop asking me every time" option?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

      That's actually a good one to have as if it's linked, PayPal's refund policy allows a longer time for a complaint (and a refund) to be made than eBay's.

    2. mittfh

      Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

      When I first signed up to PayPal, it was owned by eBay so accounts were one and the same. However, I've noticed recently on the payment page, they've started advertising PayPal Credit (effectively a virtual credit card) - so I wouldn't be in the last bit surprised if, over the coming years, that starts to become more prominent than the registered bank card and registered bank account options...

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

        I gave up yesterday trying to find a simple statement on paypal (Remember when the site used to actually have useful functionality? Every time I go on there these days, it seems to be getting dumber and dumber, with functionality replaced by big round buttons and lots of white space)

        Anyone know how? It showed me my current balance, it showed me my recent transaction. I wanted to know my balance at a certain point a few days ago (I had a few combinations of payments in and payments out around the same time, and wanted to see whether any crossed)

        You'd expect the statement to show "balance" after every transaction. It did at one time. I guess they thought there were too many confusing numbers.

        I tried the android app. It's even less functional than the brain dead website... And don't get me started on the general trend of sites getting dumber and dumber and removing functionality, or changing things to make them crappier (Looking at you, Google) - Youtube on android has recently changed the way of having the video running in a small thumbnail to taking up a quarter of the damn screen.. No option to revert to previous behaviour of course... Fortunately I archive all old apps automatically, but how long an older version will continue to work, I don't know...) Damn... you got me started!

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

          NewPipe on FDroid (alternative YouTube player), gets rid of all that nonsense.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

            Thanks. I hadn't heard of that one. I've downloaded it and will check it out


    3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

      What bugs me about PayPal is it keeps trying to get me to stay signed in, ostensibly for my convenience of course. Bastards. I don't want to stay signed in, I want to sign in, buy something, then sign out.

      It's a fucking payment site not a forum. Convenience be damned. I suspect they like to use it as an excuse when some unlucky sod's account it plundered.

      "Oh, you stayed signed in and your device was nicked, you say? Sorry to hear that, but as your account wasn't adeqately secured we really can't help you."

  15. Steve Graham

    Confused? You will be.

    I actually had the reverse experience. I paid for an item and thought "Wait -- did I just sign up to a 'free' trial of Amazon Prime." So I investigated all the available settings in my account, and it seemed that I hadn't. But anyway, I emailed Customer Service to confirm, and had a reply! confirming that I hadn't signed up.

    I mostly don't use Amazon now because of their tax dodging; and also because their seach functionality is shit.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Confused? You will be.

      I'm sure their dismal search functionality is a deliberate ploy to hide good deals.

      We care for disabled relative - who has prime - a bonus of this is it can be applied across the household, so I get it without having to pay. I'm not a fan of Amazon, (shop locally whenever possible & don't like online financial transactions due to there being no such thing as 100% secure PC when going online ) but use the freebie video streaming - so Amazon makes "loss" from my use (though assume make lots of profit off relative)

  16. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I'm starting to go off Amazon

    They used to have a good UI and be easy to use. And they're not all bad by any means. Prime is good value if you want regular quick delivery and use them a lot - even without the telly, which is not bad value on it's own (if you want that).

    However they've been increasingly getting harder to use. Because they been wanting to become eBay for a while. And there's no option to tick to just show new stuff from trustworthy sellers. So any search is now overwhelmed with dodgy cheap crap from dodgy selllers in China, with no customer service - and you only find out you'll have to pay delivery after you get to the shopping basket. Oh and "in stock" means in stock in China. Which is not the same thing - especially if your shipping involves an actual ship. Possibly a sailing ship...

    Also they've got a problem with counterfeit goods. Their system under "fulfilled by Amazon" is to take delivery of all goods into their warehouse, and then ship from the common pile. Whether you buy from them, or any other supplier. This allows counterfeit goods into the system, and you can get them even when you decide to pay more and go with the legitimate manufacturer, because it's obvious that Chinese company with no history are selling fakes at half the price. But if Amazon have signed both up to fulfill from their warehouses, then the fakes are already there and you've no way to know what you're going to get.

    Also their search algorithms seem to have gone crap. Or you search for one author and they put clearly unlrelated stuff into the list - where it's obviously not a seach mistake but deliberate advertising. That combination makes them hard to use - and I'm falling out of love with what used to be a great site. My experience of their customer service has still always been positive though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The skeeviness has already crept in and made itself thoroughly at home

      I first used Amazon in 1998, not long after they started operating in the UK.

      They used to be really good at what they did, which- as much as the prices (which weren't always that much cheaper early on)- was what made them a trustworthy "no-brainer" choice.

      Even when Marketplace first started, it was usually clear what the deal was, which goods came from which source, and easy to separate them from Amazon's if you so wished.

      In recent years, they seem to have turned into pretty much the complete opposite. As you note, the search in general is- almost certainly by design- an obfuscated mess that makes it hard to separate out sources (and since all "Fulfilled by Amazon"- and quite possibly Amazon's own- goods from different suppliers are chucked in the same bin, that'd probably be irrelevant).

      Someone summed it up a year or so back when they commented: "Amazon is not the same company they were 10 years ago. You can feel the skeeviness is creeping in."

      This was probably charitable. The skeeviness had already been there for some time and was- and still is- merely getting worse.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: I'm starting to go off Amazon

      I totally agree about Amazon becoming a third party scammers site. Disgusting. They should be fined heavily for all the shite they allow to be adverised through them.

      Also, the number of times I've had to tell people who are being fobbed off: "You bought from Amazon. You paid Amazon. Your contract is with Amazon. It's Amazons problem, and they do have to abide by EU consumer law."

  17. Muscleguy

    Yup, I was once nearly suckered by that. Even today I have to careful on the rare occasions I use Amazon (their search algorithm does my head in) I have to make sure I’m clicking on the right thing and not being suckered by the Free Shipping! button. No way do I use it often enough to make Prime worth while. Aside from the sunk cost fallacy of not checking eBay or Gumtree for possibly cheaper options.

    Then there was the time I needed a new lid for my Krupps Burr coffee grinder. Lots of folk asking for the likes of £15 or more for one on Amazon or eBay. I checked Krupps site, £3 something plus small shipping. Caveat Emptor.

  18. Gordon861

    Caught Out

    I got caught by this last year just before Christmas. In some ways it worked out well because I cancelled right away and got any Christmas orders delivered free last year, but it's starting to again offer more free trials.

    Tempted to sign up for another free trial this year and buy lots of minimum spend items and see how many deliveries I can get done in one month. Might also work as a bonus for the drivers as I expect they get paid per item rather than per address.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Caught Out

      One thing about Amazon - if you agree to Prime, then cancel immediately, it's a good way to stop all the prime nagging for a month!

  19. adam payne

    The Amazon checkout page reminds of that old joke program that showed a fake error message and the yes / no buttons kept switching around.

  20. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Free Delivery £8/month for free parcel delivery

    A text-book definition of an oxymoron: Paying to get something "free"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the other 2000 websites?

    It's called a Dark Pattern, they're nearly ubiquitous on websites/apps with subscriptions/in-app purchases/etc.

  22. Danny 2

    Video 'partner' channels scam

    My mum is used to Netflix so when Prime Video recommended a series for her she clicked on it without realising it was on Starz, costing an extra £8 or so a month. She didn't like that programme and never finished watching the first episode, but was charged each month for almost a year before she noticed it on her credit card bill. Or rather she had noticed it but ignored it because she assumed it was something my father or I had done.

    1. Timmy B

      Re: Video 'partner' channels scam

      "Or rather she had noticed it but ignored it because she assumed it was something my father or I had done."

      You know what they say about assuming....

  23. MrKrotos

    Robbing Bastards!

    This very thing has stopped me from using Amazon.

    Any site that treats me like an idiot will get none of my business, ever!

  24. KBeee

    Thought I'd been caught out

    I thought I'd accidently signed up for Prime a month or so ago. 2 small orders from Amazon came really quickly - less than 24 hours each time with free delivery - and the order tracking displayed a map showing where the delivery van or man was in real time instead of the usual text stating "at warehouse", "out for delivery" or whatever. My third order a week or so later went back to the usual 3-5 days for free delivery, so I'm clueless what happened with the first two items I'd ordered.

    Amazon used to be cheap, but now they seem to be one of the more expensive options for many items in online sales, relying on convenience and inertia instead of price. I was after a replacement cheap(ish) phone. For a Moto G7+, Amazon £280, another supplier £205 including delivery.

    On Amazons recommendations, I followed a jokey link in the comments here on El Reg for some Negative Ion / Anti Radiation woo crap and now get loads of recommendations for other Tin Foil Hat stuff. Though this crap must be good cos they all seem to have 4.5 - 5 star ratings. Dunno whether to laugh or be sad at gullible people.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Thought I'd been caught out

      Point and laugh. People need to realise when they're being stupid, or they'll remain so forever. Maybe try learning something instead of believing what Facebook said.

    2. Timmy B

      Re: Thought I'd been caught out

      I found it for £250 on Amazon.

      But there is the issue of support and returns. I'd pay the extra few quid to know I get to return it without issues.

    3. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Thought I'd been caught out

      A lot of the reviews for such bollards are paid for. Amazon is full of shilled reviews so they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Have had several items that end up being from Chinese sellers, via my own account and works account, that arrive with a little card. Offering me £10 for a 5 star review or another free product.

  25. LeahroyNake

    What are my chances

    Of getting a refund?

    Their selections of films and TV are to be blunt crap. The prime video UI is total shite and I have watched in total half an episode of The Grand Tour / Top Gear spin off.

    At least 12 months prime subscription because I thought I was going to buy more stuff and get free delivery but have only made 3 - 4 orders.

    I'm not holding my breath waiting for a reply from Amazon.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: What are my chances

      Since we're being blunt, if you thought you were going to buy more stuff then didn't, well... that's not really Amazon's fault.

      If you'd paid monthly to see how it goes you'd only be one month in the hole. Doesn't seem likely they'll refund you, but I hope they do at least partially.

    2. Timmy B

      Re: What are my chances

      Your chances are good if you never used the services.

      My Dad signed up and it all sucked (according to him). He spoke to them a couple of days after and they refunded the whole year (he paid in full in advance) except for the days he'd used it. They do tend to be pretty reasonable.

  26. cantankerous swineherd

    they got me with this. haven't used them since. couldn't believe I'd been tricked...

  27. finalStraw
    Thumb Down

    So-called Amazon!?!? Better in my day!

    I've been using Amazon since it was a RIVER, and it's been going downhill ever since.

    They used to only sell books back in them days, and you could leave your doors unlocked, and everyone knew each other. Bezos should go back to his own country and pay some bloody TAX (not in that order) like the rest of us decent hard-working families.

    And that PRIME thing?!?! about time too!!! It even caught me out once, and I'm really smart. I got my own back on the greedy tax dogging septics by paying for Prime all year, and not getting anything delivered!!! heh heh I showed them!

    GOd save the Queen!

    1. VulcanV5

      Re: So-called Amazon!?!? Better in my day!

      I'm thinking you're the bloke from whom I bought some 386SX bits via a BBS sales deal around 1994. If so, Mr Omidyar, I'm here to tell you the stuff didn't work and I want a refund. (By the way, what are you up to nowadays? Still in San Francisco?)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No choice to checkout without prime

    When I got the page above the regular hyperlink didn't work. If I wanted to purchase from Amazon, I had no choice but to join Amazon prime.

    I thought that it was an ingenious strategy by Amazon.

    I like the quick postage, but there doesn't seem to be anything worthwhile on prime video.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I actually like Prime

    I signed up to Prime a few years ago - deliberately, as we were buying quite a bit online. I've found Amazon's prices are generally competitive (and it saves signing up to dozens of separate online retailers, each time increasing the risk of fraud). If a local shop sells what I want, and isn't much more expensive, I'll buy locally but, living in a rural area, that doesn't cover much. The annual fee probably covers most of what I'd otherwise pay in delivery charges; Prime Video is a useful add-on - I'd probably not pay extra for it if they decided iy wasn't included as free-to-air provides sufficient distraction; Music is a good inclusion - not everything but enough of a selection that I see no need to pay for anything else.

    However, I agree that the marketing tactic needs to go and websites, in general, need to be clearer.

    Anonymous because most folk here seem to see Amazon as evil and I don't want trolling. I'm not sure they're much worse than most other large retailers, needing to sell products and services to make a profit. They're not a charity and, whilst it would be nice to see our High Streets in a better condition, the world is changing. Town councils don't help with ever increasing rates and, at the same time, discouraging customers by making it ever more expensive to get there (free parking is rare, other than at the out-of-town superstores - and public transport is a joke if you live out of town). I shop local when I can - but it's getting harder. Even supermarkets are encouraging online shopping and home delivery. </rant>

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I actually like Prime

      I don't think most people see Amazon as evil. But I think we're all grumpy old (wo/)men and think it's been stealily getting worse as a service. A bit like Google, it's becoming less of a smooth, clean user experience.

      I don't use them enough to make Prime worthwhile and don't watch enough TV. But if I did, then it would be a good value service. Plus you get to "borrow" a book a month if you've got a Kindle and access to Amazon Music.

      But their tactics for selling it are now getting increasingly sketchy.

  30. Elephantpm

    I did complain the ASA and I take all the credit

    I did complain to the ASA. At the time they said that they need to collected more complaints so they could prove that it was a real issue. They also indicated that they had rapped Amazon's knuckles before on this issue.

    Amazon will pay "Whack-a-mole" so when they do it again make sure that you complain.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electricity supplier E.on Energy has been on the same marketing course.

    Another email from them saying:

    "We're changing our customers meters to smart meters and we need to come and change yours for free."

    Then a big link area to book an appointment.

    Someone doesn't understand the difference between "need" and "wish" in the English language. Nowhere does it mention that a smart meter change is not mandatory.

    Right at the bottom it says

    "If you don't want a smart meter at this time, please call us on 0333 202 4832 and let us know."

    What's wrong with an email to them - at least Amazon allow an online interaction to cancel Prime. No doubt if I was fool enough to ring E.on - they will insist my meter change is age maintenance related. The answer to that is they did the routine change a couple of years ago. They also promised they wouldn't keep hounding me to have a smart meter.

    I wonder if the ASA will be interested in that email's format?

  32. steviebuk Silver badge

    Same with Audible

    They need to be hit with Audible as well as the other half got suckered into that. Kept getting something like "Claim your free Audible book" and then magically signs you up to claim it. She complained to Amazon, they refunded and cancelled it.

    I called Bezo a name on the last comment that got it rejected (I assume it was why). I feel ashamed, I've never had a comment rejected. I'm not ashamed of calling him said name though as he is one.

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