New Times,
New Thinking.

16 February 2015

Giles Coren confuses his inability to read Amazon Prime’s small print with “corporate rape”

It must be nice to be able to afford to pay for something for three years without noticing.

By Media Mole

Above: Giles Coren explains why he believes “all dogs should be clubbed to death”

Pity poor Giles Coren – restaurant critic for the Times, language pedant, breaker of superinjunctions, threatener of drum-playing 12-year-olds, thin-skinned insulter of women who find him boring, and, now, a self-proclaimed victim of “corporate rape”.

Why? Because he signed up for something without reading the terms and conditions:

Here’s the Sunday Times Money article in question:

Amazon Prime is “the best bargain in the history of shopping”, according to the online giant’s boss Jeff Bezos, but how many of the customers know they are paying £79 a year for the service?

The company recently boasted about having attracted an extra 10m Amazon Prime subscribers around the world, but some of them have paid for the service despite rarely using it, or even being aware that they are being charged for it.

Now, this mole tends not to side with large multinational corporations with suspiciously-low tax payments when they screw over consumers, but it may be worth making an exception here. Prime gives Amazon customers certain benefits – free next-day delivery for packages, online photo storage and access to Amazon Prime Instant, the company’s rival to Netflix – that make sense to a lot of people. (If you order ~20 things a year from Amazon, then the savings in delivery charges alone mean it can pay for itself.) Signing up for it isn’t something that just happens. If you have an Amazon account and order something, it gives you the option of signing up for a free 30-day Prime trial with a screen that looks like this:

…and, OK, it’s not exactly screaming it, but that text at the bottom isn’t exactly “fine” or “small”. It’s the same size as almost everything else. There is also an email that Amazon sends out to confirm the trial starts, and that includes the detail that when the trial ends the first annual payment of £79 will be taken out. And, of course, it’s called a free trial – free trials for things tend to turn into things you have to pay for after the trial period is up.

Even if you miss all of those warning signs, it’s also worth noting that, of those in the Sunday Times article who claim to have signed up unwittingly, most of them got their money back. People who didn’t use any of Prime’s features got full refunds, and those who did got partial ones – which, considering the cost of next-day delivery via courier, seems only fair. Mis-sold PPI insurance, this ain’t.

But not fair in the eyes of Coren, oh no. No matter that it must be nice to be able to afford not to notice a recurring annual charge of £79 for three years – he spent much of Sunday evening trying to turn it into some kind of minor consumer revolt:

It was at this point that the rest of the internet discovered what was happening, and started pointing and laughing:

Most amazingly, now that he’s being called out for comparing his laziness in checking his bank statements to sexual assault, he’s defending himself by linking to Urban Dictionary’s definition of the phrase “corporate rape”. As discourse goes, it’s of a quality only a smidgen better than those arguments people have in pen on the inside doors of pub toilets:

Expect to see him presenting a petition to the prime minister by the end of the week.

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy