A court in Germany handed down a harsh ruling about Amazon’s Dash buttons on Thursday (Jan. 10), according to a report from Reuters.
The court said the Dash buttons, which are small, Wi-Fi-connected devices that reorder items like laundry detergent and coffee, breaks consumer protection legislation because it doesn’t give consumers enough information about the product or its price. According to German law, a transaction must provide info on price and characteristics or delivery details.
Daniel Widmann, a technology law expert at Pinsent Masons, said in 2016 that this could cause trouble for the company. “There are further special obligations regarding consumers in electronic commerce," he said. "A valid consumer contract is only concluded when the consumer explicitly confirms that he or she undertakes to make a payment. There should be unambiguous wording, such as ‘order and pay.'”
A regional consumer protection watchdog organization brought the case against Amazon, arguing that Dash buttons don’t let customers know what they're paying. Wolfgang Schuldzinski, head of the consumer body, said his organization isn’t against new technology, and that the issue is that the buttons don’t give customers enough information.
“We are always open to innovation. But if innovation means that the consumer is put at a disadvantage and price comparisons are made difficult, then we fight that,” he said.
Amazon said the button was not against German law, and that it would fight the court’s decision through other available legal channels, since the court wouldn’t allow an appeal.
“Today’s ruling is not only hostile to innovation. It also stops customers from making an informed decision about whether a service like the Dash button gives them a convenient shopping experience,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
Germany is Amazon’s second biggest market behind the U.S., and the eCommerce company has faced hurdles there. In a different case, Amazon is being investigated by Germany’s antitrust authority about whether the company is taking advantage of its market position in terms of third-party sellers who use the site. It has also had to deal with a protracted fight with unions in Germany over pay and working conditions.