Let's start here. I have been a pro merchant seller on Amazon.com for ten years. I realize many of you who look through these reports are interested in finding similar issues. As a seller I have had a consistent 99+ %
Feedback score for all 10 years.
I realize that products can be stolen by Amazon.com and given to buyers free at the expense of sellers under the A-Z guarantee. It s FRAUD and should be stopped but that is not why I am here writing this.
I recommend filing for the exact amount of the transaction plus actual court costs in local small claims court, then forcing Amazon to come to court and defend. Under the idea of chattels the rightful owner is entitled to their property back and small claims courts generally find in favor of the seller if his item was Fraudulently given away. These small claims cost Amazon around $400 an hour to defend and generally if they have STOLEN or given away your item they can not win. Amazon will reimburse you once you file and they receive the Court documents. They did that to me but I still found taking them to court for costs was relevant as I had filed BEFORE they refunded my acount. when you file be sure to note all dates in advance and watch your settlement files.
The Court frowns upon anyone that makes a decision based on hearsay without physical examination of the item.
It is not presently worth a class action as the damages are too small to fight them on the legal battlefield. Hurting Amazon.com in the legal pocket is the best way to fight back. It is only a spiritual not a financial victory for sellers. And requires time and patience.
Here goes...the Real Deal ...the untold story...
I have had 40,000 individual sales through Amazon mostly, but not exclusively, of media related items where shipping is a FIXED price. I recently had the opportunity to purchase guitar strings as a closeout from a distributor, all new, all major brands. When I tried listing them on Amazon.com I found out that specific pro merchants had an option to list with fluctuating shipping rates. That's right Amazon gives preferential treatment to specific sellers allowing them to change actual shipping. However I was not permitted to change the shipping rate which was listed as an excessive fixed rate of 4.99 or 5.99 per set. This is more than 2 1/2 times the USPS rate to ship 2 ounces first class mail!! effectively Amazon.com was making it impossible for me to compete with their preferred sellers.
I had a store on Amazon.com with a minimum of 400 items in large quantities for sale. An inventory of 40,000
Items. I complained about the inability to list items with lower shipping. Amazon response was that if I wanted to sell guitar strings I would have to shut down my account, and start from scratch. After 10 years of building relationships with customers and having repeat customer business this was not an option for my business. I was proverbially screwed.
I started reading everything I could about monopoly. all the laws all the cases. I am not a lawyer but I Studied The Sherman Antitrust Act, The Clayton Antitrust Act and the Robinson-Patman Act. I read as many cases as I could find.
I informed Amazon.com that I was gathering information about this unfair advantage given to specific sellers and their response was to close my account permanently. Amazon stated I was permanently suspended for "in response to your inappropriate and threatening communication with us". No other explanation no violation of any terms of agreement , no sales issues.
I realize not only did I hit a nerve but that Amazon.com has been involved with price fixing at a very high level and sellers who held pro merchant subscriptions were likely entitled to every $39.99 that they had paid out to Amazon.com as their rights as sellers were violated by the price fixing.
I started research on how many items in the Amazon Catalog were involved in the fix. All I can say is thousands of items are involved. Only a few benefit from their ability to change shipping prices and thousands of items and pro sellers are involved in the fix. If you start looking at non media items and shipping prices this pattern becomes clear. When you see different shipping prices for the same items the pattern evolves. I printed out files after files of items where "the fix" was in.
I believe that Amazon.com is up against it. Until my discovery no one realized that these special arrangements had been made with specific sellers. I did a series of printouts and contacted a few other sellers and have now kept meticulous notes. One must pull up the items and look carefully to see what is going on, it is not obvious as a buyer, most look at price not shipping charges as that is in the total. It makes competing at any level impossible for most pro merchants.
I am interested in a few others that wish involvement in a class.
Here are some preliminary studies.
My current estimate of 30,000 pro merchants since the opening of Amazon.com
With an average run of five years. Who spent $479.88 each year over the terms of selling.
Would make the class worth about $60,000,000.
the suit would not involve damages to business only the concept that everyone was not selling on the same platform as advertised should be entitled to a complete refund of any fees given in order to be on that same platform.
so 60,000,000 plus all court and legal fees would be about the minimum asking for the initial claim.
FURTHER DAMAGES...according to my understanding of the Robinson-Patman Act would require an expert in finance who would have to evaluate the loss of business in order to seek recovery. This is beyond my scope and would likely be part two of the class. I believe it would be possible to approach 1,000,000,000 in this area making this the largest suit to be filed against an Internet Corporation. If in fact 1,000,000,000 in sales were conducted using fluctuating shipping this could be the potential damage to those that were affected by the price fixing. It would take experts to evaluate this.
I am now in contact with several professors and experts on Price Fixing. I am currently arranging meetings and learning how to proceed. I no longer have my internet business so I can dedicate lots of time to this cause. I am interested in making selling on the Internet a level playing field. We are still in the Wild West stages and I would expect to see other actions out of this discovery emerge in the future.