Amazon faces a $1bn (£889m) lawsuit in the UK accusing it of abusing its dominance by favouring its own products.
The case, brought by consumer advocate Julie Hunt, whose lawyers say it centers on “a secret and selfish algorithm” by the tech giant to promote its products through a “buy box” feature on its website.
Items selected for Amazon’s “buy box” are more visible to shoppers and therefore have a head start in fulfilling sales, the lawsuit says.
The proposed class action is being filed on behalf of UK consumers who have purchased items on Amazon since October 2016.
It’s done on an “opt-out” basis, meaning any potential claimant will be included in the claim unless they opt out.
The lawsuit accuses the online marketplace of violating competition laws, abusing its dominance in e-commerce and masking better deals by directing customers to these featured offers.
In a statement, Ms Hunt said: “The Buy Box is not a recommendation based on price or quality, but in favour of products sold by Amazon itself, or retailers who pay Amazon for their logistics.
“Other sellers, no matter how good their offers, are actually being turned away.”
The lawsuit is expected to be filed at the Competition Appeals Tribunal in London at the end of October, and will need to be certified there before proceeding.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said: “This claim is baseless, and we believe this will become clear through the legal process.
“We always strive to provide our customers with low prices and fast delivery.”
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Amazon has faced a number of other competition investigations in recent months, including in the UK, Europe and Australia.
In July, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority said it would investigate Amazon’s alleged anti-competitive practices, including how Amazon selects products for its Buy Box.
That same month, Amazon pledged to treat all sellers equally when ranking offers from the buy box — one of several concessions to the European Union.