On January 29, Amazon started inserting ads into the viewing experience of Prime Video subscribers. The company announced the change last year, telling customers that it will start showing “limited advertisements” with its service’s movies and shows so that it could invest “in compelling content and keep increasing that investment over a long period of time.” Those who don’t want to see ads will have to pay an extra fee of $3 a month. What it didn’t say, however, is that it’s also removing subscribers’ access to Dolby features if they choose to stay on the ad-supported tier. The change was first spotted by German tech publication 4kfilme and was confirmed by Forbes.
Forbes tested it out by streaming an episode of Jack Ryan, which was encoded with Dolby Vision high dynamic range video and Dolby Atmos sound on a TV that supports the technologies. The publication found that the boxes overlaid on top of the video confirming that Dolby Vision and Atmos are enabled were missing when they used an ad-supported account. Those boxes showed up as usual when played with an ad-free account.
That means customers will have to resort to paying the additional $3 a month on top of their subscription fee if they want to keep playing videos with Dolby Vision and Atmos enabled and if they don’t want their shows and movies interrupted by commercials. To note, Forbes also found that ad-free accounts still have access to HDR10+, which is a technology comparable to Dolby Vision.
Subscribers have been unhappy with the change, as expected, enough for a proposed class action lawsuit to be filed against the company in California federal court. The complaint accuses Amazon of violating consumer protection laws and calls its change of terms “deceptive” and “unfair.” It argues that those who’ve already paid for a year-long Prime subscription are expecting to enjoy an uninterrupted viewing experience as Amazon had promised. But since they’re also affected by this recent development, Amazon is “depriving them of the reasonable expectations to which they are entitled.” The class action is seeking at least $5 million in damages and is asking the court for an injunction “prohibiting [Amazon’s] deceptive conduct.”