The world’s largest ecommerce hub just found itself embroiled in an anti-competition lawsuit in the United Kingdom – one that could force it to give beleaguered customers a collective payout of around £900 million.
Set to be filed before the end of this month, the suit has been raised by British consumer rights advocate Julie Hunter. Hunter claims that customers were made to pay higher prices on Amazon.co.uk, and that the Amazon app kept users from considering lower-priced deals.
She added that Amazon specifically violated competition laws in the UK and the European Union with its Buy Box offers which she alleges excludes independent sellers who offer the same products as bigger brands but at lower prices or offer better deals.
It was noted that around 80% of purchases made via Amazon are from offers featured in the Buy Box. In which case, Hunter says the platform plays with its interface design to drive consumer choices, essentially directing customers to products featured in the Buy Boxes they see online.
Who is Eligible to Make Claims Against Amazon?
Among those considered potential claimants in the case are anyone living in the UK who made purchases through Amazon’s UK website or through its mobile app from October 2016 onwards.
As this suit is an opt-out collective action claim, customers who feel that they were not treated fairly by the ecommerce platform do not need to pay any legal fees or litigation costs in order to participate.
According to Hausfeld and Co. LLP partner Lesley Hannah, who is part of the lead litigation team, in the context of how competition laws are meant to protect consumers and ensure that they can make informed decisions prior to making a purchase, Amazon has treated its British clientele most unfairly. She added that, since competition laws prevent customers from being drawn into making purchases that only stand to benefit vendors, Amazon has obviously breached the law.
However, an Amazon official who refused to be named for this feature, denied the claim, remarking that it has no merit and that the legal process will vindicate the company. They added that Amazon’s key focus in the UK is supporting over 85,000 businesses who sell through the platform, many of which are independent sellers.
Not the Only Case
The impending case in the UK is far from Amazon’s only brush with the law. The European Commission recently mandated two formal antitrust investigations on the company.
As of press time, the EC is going over several commitments offered by the ecommerce company as their way of dealing with the issues.