Top EU Court Backs Amazon on Murky Contact Info

Mail trucks leaves the Amazon Logistic Center in Rheinberg, Germany, on Nov. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, FILE)

(CN) – Amazon need not comply with a German law requiring retailers to make its phone number clearly available to customers, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday.

Emphasizing that the EU’s Consumer Rights Directive makes no such demand, the First Chamber in Luxembourg said Wednesday that the national legislation is precluded.

“An unconditional obligation to provide consumers, in all circumstances, with a telephone number, or even to put in place a telephone or fax line, or to create a new email address in order to allow consumers to contact traders seems to be disproportionate, in particular in the economic context of the functioning of certain undertakings, in particular small undertakings, which might seek to reduce their operating costs by organizing sales or the provision of services at a distance or off-premises,” the opinion states.

As noted in the ruling, Germany applied for an injunction under a national law that requires a commercial entity such as Amazon to provide consumers with its trading name, business address, telephone number, email address and fax number, where applicable. The law also requires, “where applicable, the geographical address and identity of the trader on whose behalf he is acting.”

At the time German sought the injunction in August 2014, customers who clicked the “Contact us” link on Amazon’s website were given three choices: send an email, open an online chat, or contact via phone.

Those who chose the third option did not get a number, however. Instead, they had to provide their numbers and await a phone call from Amazon.

Amazon also did not offer a fax number, but it did provide various telephone numbers for what it called the “general helpline.”

After encouraging customers to follow the call-back approach, it warned that general helpline would involve “a series of questions to confirm your identity.”

For the German government, nothing about this approach aligned with its law requiring that companies provide phone numbers “in a clear and comprehensible manner.”

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