In an email to members of its premium Prime service on Thursday, Amazon announced that it would raise the price of membership from $79 a year to $99 a year. The change takes effect on April 17 for current members, meaning that any renewals after that date will cost more. New members have seven days to sign up for an account at the old rate.
The price bump is on the low end of the $20-$40 jump the company said they were considering at the end of January, but it also the first price increase for the service in its nine years of existence. Discounted student memberships will also see a price increase up to $49 a year.
In an email, Amazon cited "fuel and transportation costs" as a driver for the increase. One of the primary benefits that Amazon Prime members can get is free two-day shipping on a substantial portion of the online marketplace's wares. But they also get access to about 40,000 Prime Instant Video TV episodes and movies, and can borrow from about 500,000 e-books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. But Amazon indicated that they plan to expand offerings for the Prime membership. Those services could include a Spotify-like streaming music service.
Given earlier reports that the annual membership fee could rise above $100, the online reaction to the price hike seems to be a bit mild (although some have noted that the new price isn't a prime number, like the former rate of $79 was):
Amazon prime went from $79 to $99 a year? STILL. WORTH. IT.— Joe Mainwaring (@theaccordance) March 13, 2014
Just got my @amazon Prime renewal notice with the price increase to $99. It would have been nice to see something new for the increase..— Joe Alicata (@wirelessjoe) March 13, 2014
The price hike comes the same week as a new lawsuit challenging the honesty behind Amazon Prime's biggest perk — the unlimited free shipping. In the suit, the plaintiffs allege that the company encourages vendors to build the cost of shipping into "prime eligible" offerings on the site, making it wash for the vendor, and giving no real benefit to members.
"For example, if the price of an item is advertised for $10 with $3.99 shipping and the [vendor] wishes to match or top their price, the [vendor] would charge $13.99 or higher."
The company declined to comment on the allegations in the suit when approached by ABC News.