- Amazon intentionally made it harder to cancel Prime memberships with a project code named "Iliad."
- The project created multiple layers of questions and new offers before a user could cancel Prime.
- After its launch, cancellations dropped by 14% at one point in 2017, internal documents show.
Amazon intentionally drew out the process of canceling a Prime membership under a project code-named "Iliad," according to internal documents obtained by Insider.
The project created multiple layers of questions and new offers before a Prime member could cancel their subscription in hopes of reducing member churn. Following its launch, the number of Prime cancellations dropped by 14% at one point in 2017 as fewer members navigated to the final cancellation page, one of the documents said.
The multi-step cancellation process — a version of which still remains active today — is just one example of subtle UX design choices Amazon has used to complicate or confuse Prime's subscription and cancellation processes.
In recent years, multiple complaints have been filed with the FTC asking for an investigation into Amazon Prime's cancellation process and its use of so-called "dark patterns."
"Throughout the process, Amazon manipulates users through wording and graphic design, making the process needlessly difficult and frustrating to understand," The Norwegian Consumer Council alleged in January 2021.
In an email to Insider, Amazon's spokesperson said the sign-up and cancellation process for Prime are "simple and transparent and clearly present customers with choices and the implications of those choices."
"Customer transparency and trust are top priorities for us," Jamil Ghani, VP of Amazon Prime, said in a statement. "By design we make it clear and simple for customers to both sign up for or cancel their Prime membership. We continually listen to customer feedback and look for ways to improve the customer experience."
What it takes to cancel an Amazon Prime subscription today
While the multi-step process isn't quite as hard to complete as the 500-page ancient Greek epic poem of Project Iliad's namesake, canceling a Prime subscription does take multiple clicks, decisions, and confirmations.
The "End membership" button can be found under the "Manage membership" tab, which then leads to a series of prompts and offers.
The first prompt says "don't give up on movie night" and flags to users of how many days are left until the next billing cycle.
The next prompt lets users know how much money they would save by switching from a monthly to annual payment plan. Starting February 18, Amazon's annual Prime membership fee increased from $119 to $139 and the monthly fees increased from $12.99 to $14.99.
The last prompt asks users to confirm the cancellation of their membership. The first three yellow buttons on the page offer to pause or keep the membership, or be reminded later.
Further down the page are two final yellow buttons listing different options of when to cancel the membership.