An explosion of class-action antitrust suits against Amazon seem to be taking cues from the Biden administration and state regulators’ newly aggressive stance on competition.
Last week saw the filing of two more such suits, claiming the Seattle-based e-commerce giant’s policies drive up prices. Those cases bring the number of antitrust actions lodged against Amazon since last March to at least 16. Amazon was sued only twice on federal antitrust grounds between 2010 and 2020, according to a review of cases on CourtListener.
Those recent, private antitrust actions have largely mirrored stepped-up scrutiny of Amazon by federal- and state-level lawmakers and regulatory agencies.
The two new putative class-action suits, both filed in federal court in Seattle by law group Terrell Marshall, allege that Amazon inflates prices by nudging customers to buy merchandise from sellers who pay Amazon for logistics services, even if the same product is offered at a lower price from a seller who doesn’t rely on Amazon for shipping.
“Amazon’s unlawful use of its monopoly-level power has given it an edge in the logistics market, forced sellers to pay supra-competitive prices for fulfillment services, and increased prices for plaintiff and other consumers who shop on Amazon.com,” contend the suits.
Amazon did not respond to questions about the new lawsuits.
Four other cases, the first filed in March, allege that Amazon’s policies have the effect of raising customers’ bills at sites across the online retail industry. Amazon requires vendors to sell their products on Amazon at lower prices than they offer anywhere else. But the cost of an item on Amazon is driven up by the cost of other services the company offers, like shipping and advertising. Sellers who choose not to pay for those Amazon-provided extras often have difficulty making sales on the platform, the suits say.
Those claims echo a recent presidential directive instructing federal regulators to rule that it’s unfair for Amazon to compete with sellers on an e-commerce platform it controls. Federal lawmakers earlier this year proposed legislation with a similar intent. The District of Columbia also targeted Amazon’s Marketplace platform in a May antitrust suit.
Ten more class-action antitrust claims filed since the start of the year focus on Amazon’s bookselling division. Those suits, spearheaded by Seattle class-action firm Hagens Berman, allege that Amazon colluded with big publishers to drive up prices for print and e-books, at the expense of small retailers and consumers. Connecticut’s attorney general is also examining Amazon’s relationship with e-book publishers.