Following a state class action settlement, Amazon announced last week they will pay over $500,000, $200,000 of which will be contributed to the state’s Consumer Protection Fund, and the remainder will be given to Golden State charities.
The State of California is considering setting up a Certificate of Non-Compliance facility to enable the state’s voters to prohibit the company from sending delinquent notices or other notices which are overly burdensome or create an unfair or deceptive business practice.
Kindle Unlimited: revealed – the pricing terms and conditions, read first
Amazon’s digital book club is well known for using scary-sounding email notifications in order to get you to buy all their books. However, even on the company’s own site, a snippet at the bottom of the welcome page offers a warning about these emails:
Dear members: If you receive any electronic correspondence regarding Amazon’s eBook program, you should unsubscribe from the ebooks program immediately. Your unsubscribe preferences will automatically be stored on our computer system and applied when you are next enrolled. The unsubscribe option will not be available when you sign up for this program. To unsubscribe, go to http://unsubscribe.amazon.com/.
Kindle Unlimited: details of the new features we’re introducing
The lengthy “black letter coding” email then asks users to confirm their email address so that they will receive more notifications, and then directs them to sign up for the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program. Despite there being no open forum in which to register, any registered user of the service (such as a new member) will receive a new e-mail notification warning them that their account information has not been updated in several years, and reminding them that if they don’t unsubscribe, they will receive emails that are “too annoying or overwhelming.”
Though, to be fair, I have inadvertently signed up for quite a few of these things. So I suppose I’m in a category of my own. In addition to email, you will be reminded through an “alert notice” app to reply to each delivery.
“Please give us a call if you have a question about a book you received. Please do not reply to us after you receive a book. Nor on our websites unless you specifically say you want to comment,” the message continues.
Amazon is notorious for receiving an e-mail notification from my account after a book is already purchased, asking me to re-purchase it for a bit more money. I asked the company why this is so and they responded:
We remind you to subscribe to the Kindle Unlimited program when you sign up because our subscribers are a very valuable and loyal group of customers who tell us frequently that they want to hear more about their favorite books and can use our sales data to make informed buying decisions.
As if that wasn’t stupid enough, Amazon is placing this pressure on its customers right as it launches a new Kindle model that is essentially a shiny, new Kindle Oasis without the kickstand or built-in wi-fi.
Since I’m generally ambivalent about subscriptions and I rarely buy things that were purchased in the past, I’ve already unsubscribed from the service in the past (which turns out to be very easy).
Amazon: does your ebook payments surprise you? Read more
The class action settlement was reached by Amazon and a software engineer who claimed that his book, Networking Illusions, was emailed to him even though he hadn’t bought it. It can be argued that there could be any number of legitimate reasons for sending out so many e-mails, and that sending a very similar message with different subject and table of contents each time was easily enough for the reader to unsubscribe. This decision by Amazon to offer up a substantial portion of the settlement funds to charity, however, points to the idea that the company is now conceding that these tactics might be abusive, as well as giving users some choices.
“We want to do what’s right for our customers, and at the same time, we also want to be held accountable for our actions,” said Amazon public policy manager, Allie McNeill. “Over the past decade, we’ve strengthened our policies and processes around customer outreach, increasing security, and requiring authorization from customers in advance. We’ve also spent millions of dollars to further protect against bulk email marketing.”
The company will pay $280,000 to education charity Bookshare and another $75,000 to nonprofits including the Authors Guild, Scholar Link Foundation