Questions of Cash: May 2015

Posted on August 4, 2015 · Posted in The Independent

A recent Questions of Cash (18 April) featured a £79 charge imposed by Amazon for a subscription to its Amazon Prime service, which promises first class delivery of ordered goods, plus use of its film streaming service.  The reader, PG, did not have an account with Amazon, let alone a subscription with Amazon Prime.  The charge was refunded by his card issuer.  We have since had responses from several readers with similar difficulties.

Q   I obtained a transcript of my conversation with Amazon, which mirrors your published letter.  Me: I have a payment of £79 showing on my credit card statement.  My [Amazon] account says I am not a member of Prime and I don’t remember signing up for it.  Amazon call centre: I’ve investigated your account and confirmed the £79 charge you reported was for an Amazon Prime membership; however, I don’t see an Amazon Prime membership associated with your account. I have refunded the £79.  Me: Yes, that’s the point.  My account does not show a Prime subscription. So, my card has been used for a Prime subscription on another account. Using the reference number you should be able to find out whose account has purchased Prime. Then I can find out if there is a fraud issue with someone using my card without authorisation. Amazon: I have refunded you the Prime charge incurred on another account. The person who subscribed with your card will now receive an intimation e-mail that they have used your payment card to subscribe to Prime and they will contact you and confirm that they have used your payment card to subscribe to Prime. Unfortunately due to security reasons we are not authorized to give the details of another account.  Me: What is an “intimation email”? If it’s fraudulent, they are hardly likely to contact me are they?  Amazon: I have now processed a full refund for the subscription.  Me: But if it’s fraudulent, they can continue to use my card.  Amazon: For security reasons we should not reveal the details of another account.  You can contact the payment bank to block the card.  TW, Bristol.

Q  Amazon Prime almost got me as well.  If you start to purchase an item on Amazon the following screens are displayed: 1, sign in; 2, select a delivery address; 3, choose a delivery option, one of which is Amazon Prime.  If you click on Amazon Prime by mistake you are now signed up to Amazon Prime – even though you have not yet confirmed your choice. If you correct your mistake it makes no difference, you are immediately enrolled in Amazon Prime. I did not proceed any further and did not purchase anything, but I was still enrolled with £79 taken a month later.  GJ, by email.

Q. I am delighted that I read your article on Amazon Prime.  I have bought the occasional article or book from Amazon and some presents for my grandchildren at Christmas.  I recently checked both my Amazon account and credit card statement and discovered that an amount of £79 had been taken on January 7 2015, using my credit card for Prime membership.  I endeavoured to find the means of contacting Amazon to complain and seek repayment of this amount as I certainly had no intention of joining, or using Prime membership.  It was very difficult to find any appropriate address, either postal or email, to register my complaint.  So I used their online heading of ‘fraud’ for my email complaining about this matter and stating that I had recently read your article which made me aware of this issue. Obviously I have asked that the £79 be refunded. I have not received an acknowledgement or a reply. As I have heard nothing more I will have to follow the procedure of PG and contact my card issuer to seek recompense.  JB, Hampshire

Q. I have also been charged £79 for Amazon Prime, although I have not knowingly signed up for it. When I objected I had a reply from Amazon saying that I could get out of Amazon Prime in March next year.  GJ, Gloucester

A  We supplied all these complaints to Amazon, but it refuses to comment on individual readers’ complaints.  This is highly unusual for a well known business and is contrary to the practice of, for example, all banks and insurers that we deal with.  Instead Amazon provided us with a long statement promoting Prime subscription.  It did provide, more usefully, some information on how to get out of a Prime subscription.  “If you paid your membership fee as soon as you joined Prime, you may cancel within 14 days after you signed up. If you choose to cancel, we will refund your full membership fee if you and your invitees have not made any eligible purchases or taken advantage of Prime benefits. Otherwise, we may charge you (or withhold from your refund) our regular fees for Prime benefits used by you and your invitees. To cancel, just adjust your membership settings in Your Account or use this model cancellation form.  You can always cancel your membership in Your Account at any time and we will refund your full membership if you cancelled before you or your registered guests made any eligible purchases or used any Prime benefits.  This service has an annual duration and will be extended automatically. If you don’t want your membership to extend automatically, you may change this in Your Account at any time.”

Despite this advice, we suggest that anyone who finds they have unknowingly subscribed to Prime contact their card issuer to dispute the charge and request a refund, as well as notifying Amazon.  You should certainly not accept that you are signed up for a year to a service you have not used and did not intend to join.