Julie Hunter v Amazon.com, Inc. & Others; Robert Hammond v Amazon.com, Inc. & Others, CAT decision of 5 February 2024 (Sir Marcus Smith P., Charles Bankes and Carole Begent)
This was the first disputed carriage dispute to come before the Competition Appeal Tribunal (‘CAT’) at the pre-certification stage. The dispute was between two proposed class representatives (‘PCRs’), Ms Julie Hunter and Mr Robert Hammond respectively, each seeking to represent millions of UK consumers in relation to a billion pound opt out class action against Amazon. The CAT has ruled in favour of the application brought by consumer champion Robert Hammond, represented by Philip Moser KC and Ben Rayment of Monckton Chambers.
Mr Hammond’s claim alleges that in recommending featured product offers on its UK marketplace in the so called ‘buy box’, Amazon used a discriminatory algorithm that favoured sales by Amazon or suppliers that use Amazon’s fulfilment service which caused purchase prices to be higher than they would otherwise have been. The operation of the buy box has been the subject of concerns raised by competition authorities including the EU Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.
The CAT considered that both PCRs had brought well thought out applications but that the methodology used by Hammond’s expert was the most suitable. Accordingly, Mr Hammond’s claim will now proceed and Ms Hunter’s claim is stayed. Having overcome this important first hurdle, the case now moves on to another hearing at which the CAT will hear from the PCR and Amazon as to whether the action meets the criteria for certification to be brought on a collective basis.
Jon Turner KC represents Amazon.com, Inc., instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.
A link to the judgment is here.