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Amazon Faces UK Antitrust Class Action For Algorithm Abuse

 |  October 20, 2022

Amazon is facing a $1 billion class action lawsuit in the UK, where the company has been accused of using a “secretive” algorithm to abuse its dominant position in e-commerce.

Amazon harms its customers by directing them to its “featured offer,” resulting in better-value deals being hidden and consumers ending up paying more for products, according to the suit, which is expected to be filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in October.

The suit alleges Amazon exploits its so-called “Buy Box” to steer shoppers toward its own products and items from third-party sellers who use its order fulfillment and delivery services.

Related: Italian Court Overturns Apple & Amazon’s Antitrust Fine

The Buy Box is an area on Amazon’s product pages that gives customers a one-click option to “Buy Now” or “Add to Basket.” Amazon sets certain criteria for sellers to become Buy Box eligible and, if accepted, they gain placement advantages for their listings.

It adds that 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.”

The litigation is being led by Hausfeld, a specialist law firm. Between 80% to 92% of Amazon purchases are made on its Buy Box tool, according to Hausfeld.

Anyone who lives in the U.K. and made a purchase on Amazon since October 2016 falls under the claimant class, Hausfeld added.

Hausfeld estimates total damages from the litigation in the region of £900 million ($1 billion) if it succeeds. Julie Hunter, an independent consultant, is the lead representative.

“Millions of consumers have paid too much and been denied choice. This action seeks fair redress for them,” said Lesley Hannah, one of the Hausfeld partners leading the litigation. “Amazon takes advantage of consumers’ well-known tendency to focus on prominently-placed and eye-catching displays, such as the Buy Box.”

“Amazon doesn’t present consumers with a fair range of choices – on the contrary, the design of the Buy Box makes it difficult for consumers to locate and purchase better or cheaper options,” Hannah added. “Amazon should not be allowed to take advantage of its customers in this anticompetitive way.”