AMAZON customers could receive a share of Â£900 million in compensation following the launch of a legal claim.
A legal claim has been launched against the retail giant for allegedly breaking competition law and causing shoppers to pay higher prices.
It is being lead by Julie Hunter, who alleges that Amazon’s buy box – which contains the “add to basket” and “buy now” buttons – prevents customers from finding the best deals.
The legal action, to be filed in the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London, claims that the box conceals potentially cheaper offers by third-party retailers, in favour of products it sells itself.
The collective action is due to be filed before the end of the month.
Ms Hunter, a consumer advocate, claims Amazon uses “tricks of design to manipulate consumer choice and direct customers towards the features offers in its buy box”.
She added: âOnline shoppers have a right to be treated fairly and to be able to make informed decisions.
“This lack of transparency and manipulation of choice is an abuse of consumersâ trust, as well as a raid on their wallets.
“Amazon occupies an incredibly powerful position in the market, making it impossible for consumers to take individual action.
“Amazon shouldnât be allowed to set the rules in its favour and treat consumers unfairly. That is why I am bringing this action.â
Lesley Hannah, partner at Hausfeld & Co LLP, who along with partner Anna Morfey is leading the litigation, argues Amazon’s buy box means customers aren’t presented with “a fair range of choices”.
She added: âCompetition laws are there to protect everyone.
“They ensure that individuals can make genuine and informed choices, and are not simply led into making selections which benefit the companies they interact with.
“Fairness is at the heart of competition law and consumers are not being treated fairly by Amazon.â
It is estimated that claim is worth up to Â£900 million â which will be divided between eligible class members.
But the precise amount of compensation will vary for each individual.
An Amazon spokesperson said: âThis claim is without merit and weâre confident that will become clear through the legal process.
“Amazon has always focused on supporting the 85,000 businesses that sell their products on our UK store, and more than half of all physical product sales on our UK store are from independent selling partners.
“We always work to feature offers that provide customers with low prices and fast delivery.â
Who could get compensation?
Lawsuits that result in compensation for many people are often referred to as “class action”.
You don’t need to do anything as you’ll automatically be part of it if you’re affected.
Anyone who lives in the UK, and made purchases on Amazon or the Amazon app since October 2016, could be eligible for a payout if the claim is successful.
But there’s a long way to go before anyone could see any payout, as these types of cases can take years in the courts.
In England and Wales a Group Litigation Order (GLO) is often used for this kind of lawsuit,
Collective action has been made easier under the UKâs Consumer Rights Act 2015.
It means the courts can treat similar claims as one, rather than having hundreds or even thousands of separate individual claims.
There are a number of stages to bringing this kind of lawsuit, including the courts needing to give permission for a GLO.
Both sides can also appeal decisions at various stages making it a lengthy process with no guarantee of a payout.
Collective actions are rare – there have only been around 100 cases since 2000 according to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
And in 2021, Mastercard faced the first case of its kind in the UK.
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