On the internet, countless examples can be found of Amazon sellers, affiliates, authors, customers, delivery drivers, and all kinds of Amazon contractors who have not received their due payment from Amazon, and/or had their contracts cancelled without reason, up to the point that Amazon.com destroys their businesses. The question that always comes up is the following one: how to sue Amazon.com. I've been there, done that, here are my thoughts about it.
Is it worth suing? The pitfalls of the Arbitration Clause
Almost all agreements and terms of service that you can enter with Amazon.com contain a clause that any dispute has to be settled by binding arbitration, and not at court. That also excludes class action suits. This is what you agreed to when you created your account(s) on Amazon.com, so there's nothing that can be done about it. Arbitration does have one big advantage, which is the cost. Read the agreement with Amazon.com carefully. Amazon.com might have to cover all the filing fees, so you'd have to invest only your own attorney fees. I paid about $6,000 in total for my attorney, compared to about $50,000, which a proper lawsuit would have cost. You don't even have to appear in person, but can let your attorney handle everything for you, while you're on the other side of the world.
But don't be deceived. Even if arbitration is less expensive, it has some serious downsides. For once, an arbitration award doesn't set a precedent. It is an individual decision. If there are dozens of other victims of Amazon.com with the exact same issue, they would all have to go through the same process from scratch in order to be given justice. Nor does your attorney have but very few precedents to go to, because almost every single dispute with Amazon.com is tried at an arbitration tribunal.
To sue or not to sue, that is the question
There are probably two main reasons why you might be considering Amazon.com. One is Amazon.com retaining your money; the other one is Amazon.com closing your accounts. In many cases it might be both reasons. Due to the "termination at will" clause it is easier to get your money than to have your accounts restored. However, my lawyer told me that some arbitrators decide for account reinstatements, and others decide against it.
My personal recommendation would be to consider the amount of money that Amazon.com is retaining. If it's more than $6,000, and you're absolutely positive that Amazon.com is unjustly retaining the payment, you should definitely go for it, and sue them.
If it's less than $6,000 that you want to recover from Amazon.com, it could still be worth suing. However, you need to understand that you might end up making a loss. Do keep in mind that attorney fees are likely to be much less than $6,000 (which were highly inflated in my case, as Amazon.com was first playing dead, and then later on came up with all these ridiculous accusations).
And there's always still the possibility that you get reinstated. An affiliate, seller or KDP account that generates a lot of money can easily be more valuable than the attorney fees that you'd have to invest.
How to trigger the arbitration process
Still interested in suing Amazon.com? Good. It's very easy. All you need is a US based attorney, preferably someone who has experience with arbritation. There are plenty of them, and they're easy to be found on the internet. Pick one who looks trustworthy, has some good reputation and positive reviews, and give them a call. If you have the phone in your hand, having second thoughts whether you should give the attorney a call, remember that Amazon.com has wronged you. If you have your credit card in your hand, about to make a pre-payment to the lawyer, and have second thoughts, keep in mind, Amazon.com has wronged you. You deserve justice! For me, these two steps were the most difficult ones, and included an inner struggle. Afterwards there's only paperwork. If you know your business and your history with Amazon.com, it should be smooth and straightforward.
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This blog post is part of a series on our legal dispute with Amazon.com. This is what's been released so far:
- The History of a Legal Dispute
- HeiDoc Smiles back at Amazon.com
- Closure of the Affiliate Accounts
- Playing the Waiting Game
- Conspiracy and Fraud
- More Allegations against us
- Breaking the Kindle Monopoly
- The Verdict
- How to sue Amazon.com
- Amazon's GDPR Fail