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Amazon Prime: complicated unsubscription in 7 steps … it’s done on purpose

Amazon has announced a drastic price increase for its Amazon Prime subscription. The increase varies from 25.3% in the UK to 42.6% in France. Anticipating cancellations, dark patterns” type mechanisms (from nudge marketing) have been implemented to prevent unsubscribing from Amazon Prime. I fell for it, so I thought it was only fair to warn you and explain how not to fall into the trap.

But first, let’s go back to the origins of the Amazon Prime subscription increase and delivery fees in general.

You can order at Amazon with one click, but you can’t unsubscribe from Amazon Prime as easily.

Amazon Prime: subscriptions more expensive in all countries

Amazon Prime subscription price increases are not country-specific. Here is an overview of the increases in different countries based on an annual subscription. I’ll let you appreciate 2 key elements of Amazon Prime pricing in passing:

  • prices that vary according to GDP per capita: prices for the same service are higher in richer countries
  • prices that often end up at …,90: Amazon applies a well-known pricing technique that makes the price lower than it really is in the consumer’s brain

The tone is set. There will be no gifts for you.

Country Former price New price Increase
France 49,00€ 69,90€ 42,6%
United Kingdom 79£ 95£ 25,3%
Germany 69€ 89,9€ 30,3%
Italy 36€ 49,90€ 38,6%
Spain 36€ 49,90€ 39,6%


Amazon Prime: a service that knows how to be forgotten

The worst thing that could happen to Amazon Prime was this: to be remembered by those who subscribed. The secret of Amazon Prime is this: to be forgotten.

You subscribe one day, and then you forget. And anyone who has a subscription-based business model knows that. The key to profitability is to make yourself forgotten so that the subscription renews itself discreetly.

So, when Amazon Prime services saw their rates go up, the pain was twofold:

  • everyone remembered subscribing to it because Amazon had a legal obligation to remind you
  • the increase was so large in such a problematic context that consumers started to think

And a thinking consumer in a crisis context is generally not good news for business.

Unsubscribing from Amazon Prime: 7 steps to trick their customers

Some rather devious mechanisms have been implemented to limit unsubscribing from Amazon Prime to limit the damage. Two “dark patterns” mechanisms have been devised to prevent customers from canceling their subscriptions.

Mechanism 1: Where to find my Amazon Prime subscription in the menu?

The first step to unsubscribing from Amazon Prime is to …. find Amazon Prime in the menu. This is a fairly classic dark pattern. You have to make it hard to access the mechanism to be proscribed and easy to access the mechanism to be encouraged.

Here is an example given by Tim Ferriss in his book “The 4-hour work week”. To gain productivity and avoid wasting time on social networks, he asked his assistant to change the passwords of all his social network accesses on Monday morning. He didn’t get them back until Friday night. The process of resetting passwords is complicated, so this is a sufficient barrier to blocking harmful behavior.

Mecanism 2: request multiple confirmations

It’s quite paradoxical. Amazon is the champion of simplifying the ordering process. It invented the order with 1 click. However, unsubscribing from Amazon Prime is not a 1-click process. It is more like 7 clicks. As a caricature, the process is like this:

  • Do you want to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime?
  • are you sure?
  • are you really sure?
  • really, really sure? Because Amazon Prime is quite great.

The screenshots below show the entire unsubscribe process. As you can see, the steps to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime are as follows:

  1. find “Your Amazon Prime account.”
  2. go to “Manage subscription.”
  3. click on “end subscription and benefits” (we’re already trying to make you feel guilty)
  4. Screen 4 is particularly misleading. The message, “You still have x days to take advantage of your benefits,” makes you think you have unsubscribed. Not at all! You have to scroll down again to discover a new confirmation button.
  5. “Continue to cancel”: this button is a trap. It is hidden at the bottom of a page and, combined with the previous message, can fool consumers. It’s a “dark pattern” in the making, a complete misuse of nudge marketing.
  6. You are almost there. One more click to confirm that you want to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime.
  7. The last screen is finally the confirmation page. A confirmation email is also sent to you.
How to cancel Amazon Prime EN.pptx

A few words of conclusion

Analysis of the Amazon Prime unsubscribe process shows the use of “dark patterns.” These mechanisms aim to influence the consumer unconsciously. In this case, Amazon has set up several “traps” to prevent customers from terminating their subscriptions.

Let’s hope this article will help those who read it not to be fooled.


Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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