Amazon is being sued for allegedly 'stealing' driver tips in DC

Amazon still wants you to thank drivers through Alexa.

Shannon Stapleton / reuters

Amazon is facing more legal trouble for allegedly robbing delivery drivers of their tips. The District of Columbia has sued Amazon over claims the company was "stealing" tips from Flex drivers. As the Federal Trade Commission argued last year, DC claims Amazon changed its policies in 2016 so that it would use large portions of drivers' tips to cover base pay and operational costs. The company not only used "misleading" language in its response to worried couriers but falsely told customers that 100 percent of tips would go drivers, according to the District's Office of the Attorney General.

DC acknowledged that Amazon had paid $61.7 million as part of a settlement with the FTC. However, it said the federal deal helped Amazon elude "appropriate accountability" that included punishment for the damage done to consumers. The Attorney General's office is asking for civil penalties for every violation of the District's Consumer Protection Procedures Act as well as a court order barring Amazon from implementing similar practices in the future.

In a statement to Engadget, Amazon maintained that the lawsuit is "without merit" and reflects policies changed in 2019. The tech giant already paid the tips to drivers as part of the FTC deal, according to a spokesperson.

Legal battles like this aren't unique to Amazon. DoorDash faced a DC lawsuit in 2019 over comparable accusations. The food delivery service reportedly used tips under $10 to replace couriers' guaranteed pay, but still implied that these were bonuses. DoorDash revised its rules earlier that year to address the complaints.

The timing of the lawsuit is less than ideal for Amazon, to put it mildly. The company just launched a "thank my driver" feature that lets Alexa users in the US share their appreciation for the courier who dropped off their latest package. While it's supposed to motivate drivers, the gratitude will only be verbal in most cases — Amazon is only handing out $5 rewards to drivers for the first 1 million "thank yous." As you might imagine, that might not go over well at a time when Amazon has been accused of shortchanging drivers and imposing difficult working conditions.