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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Amazon Sellers Must Arbitrate Late-Pay Suit

(CN) — Two former Amazon sellers for Amazon who claim the online retailer failed to pay them in a timely manner will have to arbitrate their class action.

The reason? Quite simply, the Ninth Circuit said on Thursday, that is what they agreed to.

Jo Ellen Peters and Ken Lane filed their complaint in the District of Western Washington on behalf of themselves and other online sellers. They said that Amazon canceled their accounts suddenly and then failed to transmit the profits from sales for over 90 says, even though the contract they signed promised payment within 14 days.

Peters and Lane said this is a routine occurrence and, in addition to violating the contract, contravenes Washington state law, which requires payment within 10 business days.

For its part, Amazon says it withheld the funds in case of refund requests. It says it canceled the accounts because Peters sold counterfeit goods and Lane sent emails with abusive language to Amazon employees and tried to engage in price-fixing.

However, in spite of all that, a federal judge ruled that Peters and Lane agreed to arbitrate their claims. On appeal, a Ninth circuit panel affirmed this ruling unanimously.

"Lane and Peters agreed to Amazon's business solutions agreement, which contains an unambiguous agreement to arbitrate '[a]ny dispute or claim relating in any way' to the agreement or use of Amazon's services," the panel's unpublished per curiam opinion read.

The business solutions agreement trumps all other agreements, including the marketplace participation agreement that Lane and Peters also signed. They argue that agreement, which mandates litigation, is an Amazon program policy. However, the panel found it is actually a seller agreement, not a program policy, and falls under the business service agreement.

It also did not help Lane that he became a seller before the business service agreement came into being. He signed it later - four different times, in fact, because he kept reopening his account under aliases - and it supersedes all previous agreements, the panel held.

Britton Monts from The Monts Firm in Austin, Texas, represented Peters and Lane. James Grant from Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle represented Amazon.

Neither the attorneys involved nor Amazon responded to requests for comment.

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