Amazon among retail giants accused of unethical sales practices

Retail giants including Amazon and River Island have been accused of using unethical methods to squeeze money out of their customers.

According to new research by user experience (UX) agency Sigma, these companies have crafted their interfaces to trick users into paying for online subscriptions.

Amazon was found to be encouraging users to sign up to its Amazon Prime service without stipulating clearly that the free trial would roll into a monthly payment of £7.99.

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The mobile site contains a yellow button in the checkout process which has the text ‘FREE one-day delivery – pay later’ at the checkout. According to Sigma, this is confusing users into signing up to a service without knowing a subscription charge will be taken monthly when the 30-day free trial period ends, as mentioned in the small print.

Meanwhile, women’s fashion e-tailer Just Fab was found to be using scare tactics to convince users to sign up to its subscription service.

The brand advertises special offers for ‘VIP members’ only, and displays a countdown graphic for these discounts on the site. It isn’t abundantly clear that by signing up to be a VIP member customers will be charged £35 on a monthly basis, Sigma said.

Commenting on the findings, Hilary Stephenson, managing director at Sigma, said: “Our research has really shone a light on the dark side of user experience. Brands simply shouldn’t be using these unethical tactics to make more money, or collect data.

“UX principles exist to simplify the user journey for customers, not to trick them into unknowingly signing up to expensive subscriptions or pressuring them to let go of their personal information,” she added.

“As we only looked at a handful of big brands in our research, we fear that this could be a common problem across the board and increasing in popularity with the likes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday taking over in the run up to the festive season, putting pressure on brands to boost sales.”

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