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Amazon’s Sidewalk Technology Faces Federal Class Action

The lawsuit claims the technology could lead to surprise overage charges on consumers' internet bills.

(CN) — Amazon is facing a federal class action lawsuit in Seattle over its Sidewalk network and claims that the company engaged in “unfair, deceptive” and “fraudulent business practices” at the expense of its customers.

Amazon’s Ring security cameras and Echo smart speakers that have the Sidewalk feature can allow other such devices to connect to them via Bluetooth, allowing them to draw upon a small amount of their owner’s bandwidth. 

The company’s website says that Sidewalk “creates a low-bandwidth network” that helps devices with the technology to stay connected.

“Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door,” the website says. “When enabled, Sidewalk can unlock unique benefits for your device, support other Sidewalk devices in your community, and even locate pets or lost items.”

Sidewalk went live on June 8 and automatically connects to other Sidewalk devices without asking owners their consent to share bandwidth.

The complaint, filed Thursday in the Western District of Washington, claims that Amazon is using the bandwidth of consumers to cheaply build a wireless network.

“Amazon bypasses the expense of creating such an expensive network, however, by having Sidewalk tap into Plaintiffs’ and Class Members’ private Internet connections, using portions of their Internet bandwidth to maintain connections between the Sidewalk Devices,” the complaint states.

The complaint says such usage of consumers’ bandwidth could lead to overage charges on their internet bills and the knowledge of opting out is not readily available.

“Owners and users of the Sidewalk Devices can only stop the unfair use of their Internet bandwidth if they are aware of the taking of the bandwidth via Sidewalk, find instructions for disabling Sidewalk, and take several steps to disable Sidewalk on their devices,” the complaint states. “Owners and users of Sidewalk Devices who do not opt out and have Sidewalk enabled are not compensated by Amazon for the use of their bandwidth.

“Additionally, Amazon does not clearly disclose that even if a customer initially opts out of the Sidewalk network, if they obtain a new Sidewalk-enabled device, Sidewalk will automatically be re-enabled, and they will need to opt-out again.”

The complaint claims the company committed theft of telecommunication services and violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

The lawsuit says that Amazon “affirmatively misrepresents that its consumers are voluntarily sharing and donating their Internet bandwidth, constituting deceptive acts and practices.”

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

Categories / Business, Consumers, Technology

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