Hausfeld filed a £900 million UK consumer claim against Amazon alleging breaches of competition law at specialist court
On 14 November 2022, the Hausfeld team filed a ground-breaking legal action against tech giant Amazon at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London, for allegedly steering consumers towards offers that favour Amazon’s own business, whilst obscuring deals from third party sellers that could be cheaper or better value (UK Buy Box Claim).
Julie Hunter, the consumer rights advocate leading the opt-out collective claim on behalf of more than 50 million UK consumers, filed the claim against Amazon at the specialist tribunal yesterday, seeking compensation of around £900 million in total.
Anyone who lives in the UK and made purchases on Amazon.co.uk or on the Amazon app since November 14, 2016 is an eligible member of the claimant class. In accordance with Competition Appeal Tribunal rules, the collective action is being filed on behalf of all potential claimants without them needing to actively opt into the claim. To learn more about the UK Buy Box Claim, and register for updates, please visit www.ukbuyboxclaim.com.
The filing of a detailed claim form follows last month’s announcement of the legal action’s launch. It also coincides with an ongoing investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority into Amazon’s business practices, preliminary findings of anti-competitive behaviour by the European Commission, and an adverse ruling by Italy’s competition regulator.
Summary of the claim
The legal action claims that Amazon abuses its status as the dominant online marketplace and harms customers by channelling them towards its “featured offer”.
This featured offer – prominently located in the “Buy Box” on Amazon’s website and mobile app – is the only offer considered and selected by the vast majority of users, many of whom trust Amazon and wrongly assume it is the best deal. However, Amazon uses a secretive and self-favouring algorithm to ensure that the Buy Box nearly always features goods sold directly by Amazon itself, or by third-party retailers who pay hefty storage and delivery fees to Amazon, it is alleged. The Buy Box is designed and presented in a way that effectively prevents millions of consumers from navigating the site to find cheaper offers, or better delivery options, for the same product, according to the claim.
This manipulation of consumers is a breach of Amazon’s obligation as the dominant marketplace not to distort competition. The claim will accuse Amazon of breaching section 18 of the UK Competition Act 1998 and Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Pending further information to be disclosed by Amazon itself later in the legal process, it is estimated that it is estimated that the class of claimants comprises between 51.6 and 53.1 million UK-based Amazon adult users.
About the class representative
Julie Hunter has worked exclusively in consumer research, advocacy and protection for more than 20 years. She is an independent consultant who has worked with leading consumer organisations in the UK and abroad on topics such as consumer vulnerability, digital services, financial services, consumer rights, customer service and complaints.
Ms Hunter is Chair of the Consumer & Public Interest Network, an independent organisation representing consumers in the development of voluntary standards, supported by the UK standards body BSI. Ms Hunter is also a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP), an independent statutory body representing consumer interests in the development of UK policy for the regulation of financial services. Earlier in her career, Ms Hunter spent six years leading research projects and investigations at Which?.
Ms Hunter is represented by leading disputes-only law firm, Hausfeld, and by Marie Demetriou KC, Robert O’Donoghue KC and Sarah Love of Brick Court Chambers.
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Conal Walsh / Will Matthews / Andreas Grueter