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Amazon sued for putting ads in Prime Video content

A California man says he and others purchased annual subscriptions to Prime thinking they would get commercial-free shows and movies.

A California man says he and others purchased annual subscriptions to Prime thinking they would get commercial-free shows and movies.

A streaming TV viewer watches a Prime Video show on a tablet. (Courtesy image)
A streaming TV viewer watches an Amazon Prime Video show on a tablet. (Courtesy image)

A California man has filed a lawsuit against tech giant Amazon over a recent decision to incorporate advertising in its Prime Video service.

The plaintiff, Corona resident Wilbert Napoleon, claims he purchased a subscription to Amazon’s Prime membership program thinking he would get commercial-free access to movies and TV shows available through the company’s Prime Video service.

Last year, reports indicated Amazon was in the process of launching an ad-supported tier of Prime Video in a similar vein as Disney Plus and Netflix, which have rolled out similar plans over the past few years.

Months after those reports, Amazon confirmed it would start streaming ads breaks within Prime Video movies and TV shows if customers purchased their $15 per month or $150 per year Prime membership. Customers who wanted to remove ads from Prime Video content were given the option to pay an extra $3 per month or $36 per year to eliminate them.

Amazon notified customers by email several weeks before making the change, but Napoleon complains he renewed his Prime membership, believing he would always get commercial-free content through Prime Video. In his complaint, Napoleon included an image from Amazon’s website as it appeared in 2011, saying Prime members “now get unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of more than 5,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost.”

Attorneys for Napoleon said he renewed his Prime membership last summer, believing Amazon would continue offering commercial-free streaming for the foreseeable future. The renewal date listed in the complaint was June 2023 — the same month that the Wall Street Journal said Amazon was developing the ad-supported tier of Prime Video.

“When Mr. Napoleon purchased the Amazon Prime subscription as described above, he. accepted the offer that Amazon made, and thus, a contract was formed at the time of purchase,” the complaint says. “The offer was to provide an Amazon Prime subscription that included ad-free streaming of TV shows and movies, for the price of the Prime annual subscription.”

Napoleon’s attorneys did not supply any information in the complaint that showed the promise of ad-free streaming was made in June 2023 when he apparently renewed his membership. Still, they say Amazon “breached its contract” when they began putting commercials in Prime Video content, then offered to charge him a premium to remove the ads.

The lawsuit was filed in a Washington state federal court, where Amazon is headquartered. Napoleon and his attorneys are seeking class action status and a jury trial on all claims. If upheld, Napoleon and his attorneys want unspecified actual and punitive damages against Amazon, as well as “restitution” and “pre- and post-judgment interest,” among other things.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).