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Amazon's membership service deemed 'subprime' in lawsuit

One man's displeasure with Amazon's Prime membership has resulted in poor ratings for the e-tail giant in the marketplace of public opinion. This year, Gregory Harris filed suit against Amazon, claiming he was charged hidden fees while purchasing items through the online retailer. According to the plaintiff, the company enrolled him in Amazon's "Prime" membership program without his permission. Those purchasing this service benefit from shipping upgrades and streaming services; however, its cost at $100 is prohibitive for many families. For this reason, many people buy items on the retailer's website without committing to the membership service.

In his lawsuit, Harris states that Amazon misrepresents the costs associated with purchasing on its site. According to the Harris, his decision to buy items that had been advertised at a low price led to his enrollment in the Prime membership program. Obtaining the items at that price was contingent on having a membership, a distinction that was not evident to Harris until he received the charges at a later time. As such, the plaintiff claims Amazon commits fraud in developing a "common scheme to mislead consumers and incentivize them to purchase products from its website." Charging customers a membership fee contradicts the company's claim that buyers can acquire items for the prices listed on its site regardless of membership status.

The lawsuit alleges Amazon disregarded the regulations established in the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and the state's Unfair Competition Law. Those included in the class action suit are Amazon customers who were fraudulently enrolled in the Prime membership service.

Those who have made purchases on the company's site are encouraged to review their credit card statements to see if unauthorized charges appear on their statements.

The case has been filed in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles.

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