• From the Seattle Times:
"As Amazon continues to add perks for Prime members, it says it’s increasing the value to customers. But the Federal Trade Commission sees a threat to fair competition — one that has actually led to higher prices.
"In 2021, Amazon considered making it possible to purchase only portions of its Prime subscription package, a deal that now costs $139 annually and includes a range of benefits from free, two-day shipping to gaming and video streaming to prescription refills. At the time, Amazon discussed 'decoupling' those benefits and offering customers the chance to sign up for a 'Prime Shopping' subscription that includes only unlimited shipping and other shopping-related services.
"But the company backed away from that plan - despite knowing it was something customers wanted - because it didn’t want to lose its competitive advantage in the online superstore market, FTC attorneys argue according to recently unsealed portions of the antitrust lawsuit against Amazon."
In response, a spokesperson for Amazon tells the Times, "'The premise of the FTC’s claims are incorrect.' Shoppers can access some of Prime benefits individually, the spokesperson said, including free shipping for purchases over $35 and stand-alone offerings for Prime Video, Amazon Music and Kindle Unlimited … The FTC acknowledged that Amazon does offer some stand-alone services but accused the company of using 'dark patterns' and 'manipulative design techniques' to make it difficult for customers to take advantage of that option."
• In China, Caixin Media reports a slowdown in sales during its Singles Day promotional event - on Saturday, sales were down 9.75 percent to the equivalent of $38 billion (US), compared to the same day a year ago.
According to the story, Alibaba, which started the event 15 years ago, reported year-over-year growth on Saturday without disclosing numbers. "Neither did two other major shopping sites, JD.com and Pinduoduo, disclose their sales figures for the day. It’s the second year in a row that major Chinese online retailers didn’t report their sales for the event."