Amazon has been ordered to stop running an advertisement for its Prime service, after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found it to be misleading.
The firm sent a direct mailing to people with Amazon accounts that included a plastic card, on which was written: "30-DAY FREE TRIAL For [recipient's name]. Go to amazon.co.uk/videoprime".
The accompanying letter told the recipient they were eligible for "a free trial of Amazon Prime", adding: "Start your 30-day free trial today and watch as much as you want".
At the bottom of the letter, in small print buried within a section entitled "Offer terms" was the following: "Paid subscription starts automatically after free trial unless cancelled".
Unclear and misleading
Six people complained, stating the advert was misleading because it did not make sufficiently clear that a paid subscription would automatically start if not cancelled during the free trial; and it did not state what the cost of the subscription would be.
Amazon said the small print at the bottom of the letter explicitly stated the terms of the deal offered, and that customers were made aware of the cost of a full annual subscription to Prime when they registered for the 30-day trial.
This was rejected by the ASA, however, which said the paid subscription starting automatically at the end of the trial was "a commitment and a significant condition of the 'free' offer," and should have been made clear to consumers. It also said the small print was not sufficient to inform recipients about the paid subscription.
The ASA also said the 12-month subscription fees of £79 for Prime and £5.99 a month for Amazon Prime Instance Video was "material information and a condition of the offer of which consumers should be made aware". It added that it was not sufficient to only set out that information in the subsequent online registration process.
The advert was therefore "likely to mislead" and the ASA said it should not be used again in that form. Amazon said the advert was "not currently appearing".