Many large companies now force customers to agree to binding arbitration in cases of disputes, preventing users from suing them in court - Amazon among them.
But in a surprise move, Amazon changed its Conditions of Use
, sending the following letter to customers last week:
We wanted to let you know that we recently updated our Conditions of Use.
One of our updates involves how disputes are resolved between you and Amazon. Previously, our Conditions of Use set out an arbitration process for those disputes. Our updated Conditions of Use provides for dispute resolution by the courts.
Please visit https://www.amazon.com/conditionsofuse to read our updated terms in full.
As always, your use of any Amazon service constitutes your agreement to our Conditions of Use.
Binding arbitration clauses require each customer to file a dispute individually - and there is a perception arbitration often favors companies over their users.
While class action lawsuits potentially have more teeth, the legal cases we had written about in years past often led to settlements, with most customers receiving a paltry check.
We did notice that while Amazon now allows lawsuits, there's a bit of a gotcha:
"Any dispute or claim relating in any way to your use of any Amazon Service will be adjudicated in the state or Federal courts in King County, Washington, and you consent to exclusive jurisdiction and venue in these courts. We each waive any right to a jury trial."
Amazon customers may now get their day in court, but not before a jury.
The New York Times
covered the news and spoke to Deepak Gupta, a lawyer who represented customers in a landmark 2010 Supreme Court case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion.
Referring to binding arbitration clauses, Gupta said, "It was never about making it easier for customers to resolve disputes - it was about killing claims."
continues to have an arbitration clause in its User Agreement - as does Etsy
If you have ever participated in a lawsuit or arbitration as a buyer or seller, chime in - and let us know what you think of binding arbitration clauses.