Amazon has quietly changed its terms of service to allow customers to file lawsuits after receiving a deluge of arbitration requests, according to In the Wall Street Journal. The company’s dispute resolution policies for clients were ordered before placing their complaints in a secret court. These so-called arbitration proceedings are typically used by companies to prevent potentially harmful decisions in court. Amazon faces three proposed class actions, which could result in large payments to several players, including one presented in May. accusing him of registering Echo users without permission.
The company would change its policy after inventive lawyers flooded it with more than 75,000 individual arbitration claims on behalf of Echo users. The claims were filed in early 2020 following news that Amazon’s Alexa devices were archiving user registrations. Lawyers said WSJ that the move has straddled the online seller with a bill for tens of millions of dollars in deposit fees.
In May, Amazon’s attorneys reportedly told the plaintiffs’ attorneys a change in their terms of service. The original clause of the company’s disputes stated: “The arbitration shall be conducted by the American Arbitration Association (AAA) under its rules, including the AAA Supplementary Procedures for Consumer Disputes.
“Amazon and you all agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not on a class, consolidated or representative basis.” The amendment replaced what was once a 350-word description of its arbitration requirement with two sentences saying the disputes can be brought in state or federal courts in Washington County, Washington.
Amazon said WSJ some of the claims have been withdrawn or terminated in favor of the company. He added that their Echo devices only record when they are in use and that customers can delete recordings or choose not to have them stored.
The update follows growing pressure on Big Tech companies to end their use of forced arbitration. Earlier this year, an Amazon seller complained to the legislators of their unjust policy of using secret courts to resolve disputes. Jacob Weiss told the House Justice Subcommittee on Antitrust that he spent thousands on arbitration fees and recovered little of what he lost. Last year, House Democrats on the antitrust committee recommended removing forced arbitration clauses and limits on class action lawsuits in a report on digital markets.
For its part, Google has ended its mandatory arbitration policy for employees after internal protests for their response to sexual harassment claims. Around 20,000 of the global workers of the technology society took part in the raids amid the #MeToo movement in 2018.
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