Class action lawsuit against Amazon: "Hidden" the e-group offers cheaper products to customers?

A new class action lawsuit accuses Amazon of manipulating its customers’ purchasing behavior with the Buy Box and thus deliberately hiding cheaper products from them.

• Class action lawsuit filed by US Amazon customers
• Accusation: Amazon specifically directs buyers to higher-priced products
• Plaintiffs hope for damages

A new class action lawsuit in the USA could cost Amazon dearly. The plaintiffs – two long-time Amazon customers from California – claim that hundreds of millions of US customers paid too much for the products they purchased and also received worse conditions such as longer delivery times.

Manipulation of the buy box

Specifically, the lawsuit is about the Buy Box. This gives customers the choice between the “Add to cart” and “Buy now” buttons. According to Reuters, nearly 98 percent of Amazon sales were for items listed in the Buy Box because customers “reasonably” believe they have found the best deal. “But they are often wrong,” the lawsuit says.

Amazon often offers items from its own retailers and sellers who participate in the Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) program. They pay Amazon higher fees and in return receive some benefits, such as appearing in the Buy Box, the lawsuit says. “The result is that consumers routinely overpay for items that are available at lower prices from other sellers – not because consumers don’t care about price or because they are making informed purchasing decisions, but because Amazon has chosen to display the deals , for which it receives the highest fees,” quotes Ars Technica. The plaintiffs are convinced that Amazon “intentionally” and “deceptively” misled them and countless other US customers into purchasing the items in the Buy Box.

Authorities in both the US and the EU are said to have already investigated the allegedly anti-competitive buy box algorithm and ultimately confirmed that Amazon “has favored FBA sellers since at least 2016,” Ars Technica further quotes from the complaint.

Allegations are not new

However, these allegations against the US trading giant are not new. The Italian competition authority had already fined Amazon a billion US dollars in 2021. In 2022, the European Commission also ordered “all sellers to be treated equally when deciding what to display in the Buy Box,” according to Ars Technica.

However, according to Reuters, this is the first lawsuit seeking compensation for consumers. “Our team assumes that hundreds of millions of Amazon consumers will participate in the lawsuit, since virtually all purchases are made via the Buy Box,” Ars Technica quoted a spokesman for the plaintiffs’ lawyers as saying. The possible extent of the damages is currently unknown.

“Amazon claims to be a ‘customer-centric’ company that aims to offer its customers the lowest prices, but in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, Amazon uses a deceptive scheme to keep its profits – and consumer prices – high,” quoted Ars Technica from the lawsuit.

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