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Amazon faces $1 billion lawsuit over claims it 'tricks' UK customers into paying more

The company is accused of using the Buy Box to favor its own logistics network.

Delivery man with packages from Amazon Prime in Soho on 17th May 2022 in London, United Kingdom. Amazon Prime is a paid subscription service from Amazon which is available in various countries and gives users access to additional services otherwise unavailable or available at a premium to other Amazon customers. Services include same, one or two-day delivery of goods. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|October 20, 2022 3:27 PM

Amazon could soon go to court over its use of the Buy Box that highlights shopping deals. The Guardian reports that lawyers are filing a class action lawsuit with the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal over claims the Buy Box "tricks" shoppers into paying more than they should. Consumer advocate Julie Hunter says the section favors either Amazon's own products or sellers who use the company's logistics, not the best price or quality of service. A better deal might be buried lower on the page or even tucked into an "obscure corner" on the site, Hunter adds.

Co-leading lawyer Lesley Hannah contends that users rely heavily on the Buy Box, with up to 90 percent of purchases going through that space. "Millions" of buyers have likely overpaid as a result. Supposedly, the practice also violates competition requirements by stifling sellers with better deals.

The lawsuit seeks damages of £900 million (about $1 billion). It covers any UK resident who has made purchases since October 2016, and doesn't require that you opt in.

Amazon tells The Guardian in a statement that it believes the lawsuit is "without merit." It maintains that it supports all the sellers in its UK marketplace, and that "more than half" of physical good sales in the country go through independent sellers. It didn't directly address the purported Buy Box manipulation. The firm has lately asked sellers to oppose antitrust legislation meant to prevent tech giants from giving their services an unfair advantage.

There's no guarantee the lawsuit will force Amazon to alter the Buy Box. However, it comes as the company faces multiple accusations that it misuses its dominant position to stifle third-party sellers. California recently sued Amazon over assertions that it punishes sellers who offer cheaper prices elsewhere, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly investigating Amazon for misusing seller data to launch competing products.

Amazon faces $1 billion lawsuit over claims it 'tricks' UK customers into paying more