Have you been hit by a £79 fee for unwittingly using Amazon Prime? We've seen scores of complaints from confused shoppers whose accounts have been debited by Amazon without them knowing why.

One person wrote on Amazon's forum: "I signed up to the free trial but nowhere did it say £79 will automatically be taken from the account, never had problems from Amazon before. Feel robbed, I don't earn much as it is and I need every penny I can get at the moment!"

Online retail giant Amazon's Prime service enables users who sign up for it to access its movie and streaming service, get unlimited one-day deliveries, borrow a Kindle book for free each month and have unlimited photo storage on the Amazon Cloud Drive (see our Amazon Discount Finder to bag bargains).

It's free if you sign up for a 30-day trial, but if you don't cancel during the trial period, you're automatically enrolled on to the service for a year and a £79 fee will be taken from your account.

Amazon says everyone who signs up to Prime gets sent an email informing them of the duration of the free trial, how to avoid continuing to paid Prime membership, and how to cancel the paid membership if someone took it out without a trial.

But many claim they've been caught out by the £79 fee after not realising they had to opt out of the year-long membership. Others say they don't believe they signed up for a trial in the first place, while some say they accidentally clicked the sometimes prominently placed trial button.

MoneySavingExpert.com looked at Amazon's website and found you can sign up for the trial either when buying goods, or simply by clicking on an advertising banner.

Martin Lewis
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But while some pages warn you in the small print or contain pop-ups about the automatic subscription and £79 fee, others don't. One page we saw also made the Prime sign-up box really prominent, making it easy for someone to miss the smaller 'No thanks' option next to it.

Can I cancel Prime and get a refund?

Whether you see this as Amazon's fault for potentially misleading customers, or its users' faults for not reading the terms and conditions, we want to tell people how to get their money back. Here's what you need to know:

  • I'm within the free trial period. To cancel, go to 'Your Account' > under 'Account Settings' select 'Manage Prime Membership' > Click 'Do not continue', which is the second option on the left-hand side of the page. Once done you'll continue to receive Prime services until your free trial period ends. Then your membership will cancel, and your card won't be charged.

  • My free trial has ended. To cancel, go to 'Your Account' > under 'Account Settings' select 'Manage Prime Membership' > Click 'End membership', which is the second option on the left-hand side of the page. If you've not used any Prime services since the trial ended you'll automatically get the £79 fee refunded. If you've unwittingly used any of the services, your only option is to contact Amazon, explain what's happened and urge it to refund you.

  • I subscribed to Prime without a free trial. To cancel you have 14 days to go to 'Your Account' > under 'Account Settings' select 'Manage Prime Membership' > and Click 'End membership', which is the second option on the left-hand side of the page. As long as you or your invitees (with Prime you can invite up to four eligible family members living at the same address to use the membership at no extra cost) haven't used any Prime services you'll automatically get the £79 refunded. If you or your invitees have unknowingly used Prime services, your only option is to contact Amazon, explain what's happened and urge it to refund you.

Steve tweeted us to say he successfully got his money back following out help: "It took me by surprise but I've just got my £79 back following your tips."

Unhappy customers

Here's a selection of some of the complaints we've seen about Amazon Prime on our forum:

  • Bluehoops says: "I got an unexpected balance appear on an old credit card, and on investigation discovered that Amazon had deducted £79 from my card as an annual charge for their Amazon prime streaming TV and film service.

    "I never knowingly subscribed to Amazon Prime, and had never used it."

  • kwikbreaks says: "I do use Amazon regularly but am quite content with the normal, slow but free service and have in the past managed to miss the umpteen "Free Prime Trial" buttons and find the far less prominent "I'll just have normal free delivery" option. Until just now.

    "I carelessly clicked what I thought was normal delivery as it was under a huge orange "Free Prime Trial" button. I realised straight away what I'd done and didn't complete the checkout but went back to the start. Too late – I was a Prime member."

  • hubb writes: "I just ordered a DVD and must have clicked accidentally on Prime delivery option. I immediately rectified it by selecting free normal delivery. Even though I changed my delivery option Amazon have already signed me up for a free Prime trial."

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