UK retailers launch £1bn class action against Amazon

Claim submitted to Competition Appeal Tribunal alleges Amazon misused data to outcompete UK retailers

Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre

Retailers have launched the latest Competition Appeal Tribunal claim against Amazon, citing allegations of data misuse.  

The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) has filed a £1bn collective damages claim against Amazon on behalf of UK retailers – the largest collective claim yet made under the Competition Act 1998.

The claim, submitted to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in London, accuses Amazon of illegally misusing data from retailers and manipulating the Amazon Buy Box to favour its own commercial interests, thereby diverting sales and profits to Amazon.

The action spans from October 2015 to date and alleges that Amazon used non-public data from UK retailers to enter new product segments, copy successful product elements and strategically price items to outcompete UK independent retailers.  

This practice, combined with the manipulation of the Buy Box, allegedly allowed Amazon to effectively push many independent retailers out of the market by offering cheaper rival products.

BIRA’s chief executive, Andrew Goodacre, drew attention to the potential threat that Amazon’s alleged actions posed to the UK retail landscape: “The British public has a strong relationship with its local independent retailers, and ensuring they are not put out of business by Amazon’s alleged illegal actions is a key driving force behind this collective action.”  

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has taken the allegations seriously, opening an investigation into Amazon’s practices in 2022 in response to concerns that Amazon’s access to commercially sensitive data from third-party retailers could unfairly advantage its own products.  

The CMA’s probe examined whether Amazon’s practices had distorted fair competition in its marketplace by favouring its products in the Buy Box over those of independent retailers. In rebuttal, Amazon offered several commitments to halt these practices while agreeing to appoint an independent trustee, approved by the CMA, to monitor compliance with its obligations going forward. Related investigations by the European Commission yielded similar concessions.

BIRA, representing approximately 35,000 UK retailers, argues that Amazon’s practices have inflated its profits while causing significant harm to the UK retail sector. Goodacre said: “This is a watershed moment for UK retailers, especially for small independent retailers in this country.” 

Boris Bronfentrinker, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, representing BIRA, highlighted the significance of the case: “This is precisely the sort of claim that the new collective action regime was brought in for – to enable small and medium-sized businesses to recover damages caused to them by a huge multinational where they would not otherwise have such access to justice.”

Bronfentrinker is well known as the lead lawyer for the MasterCard litigation, which continues to work through the UK courts following a series of high-profile decisions, most recently as March 2024, in which both sides claimed tactical successes in the £10bn litigation. It is not known who will defend the claim for Amazon.  

Third-party funder Litigation Capital Management (LCM) is funding the legal action, an ‘opt-out’ claim, by which retailers who have suffered losses will automatically be included in the claimant class unless they opt-out, with those not currently domiciled in the UK opting in.

Bronfentrinker leads the legal team alongside partners Elaine Whiteford and Michelle Clark. Competition barristers Sarah Ford KC from Brick Court and Blackstone Chambers’ Jason Pobjoy are also involved.  

The case is one of several significant instructions involving Ford, who has acted on the £2.7bn FX collective actions claims involving lead claimants Michael O'Higgins and Philip Evans against various banks and the Mark McLaren Group Litigation Order, only the fourth such action to be certified.  

An Amazon spokesperson called the complaint “baseless” and added: “Over 100,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the UK sell on Amazon’s store, more than half of all physical product sales on our UK store are from independent selling partners, and the fact is that we only succeed when the businesses we work with succeed.” 

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