Many traders can hardly avoid selling via an Amazon Marketplace. For some traders, sales via an Amazon Marketplace account for a significant part of their turnover. For traders, it can therefore threaten their existence if Amazon deactivates the trader's seller account, possibly even without good reason. The LG München I has now taken a clear stance against this practice in a decision and classified Amazon's behaviour as contrary to antitrust law.
Is Amazon allowed to block an account without giving reasons?
A trader offered food supplements and beauty products, among other things, via his Amazon Marketplace and generated a turnover of approx. 800,000 € with it in 2020. In July 2020, Amazon threatened to block the seller's account because the trader had allegedly offered remuneration for customer reviews. Amazon did not give any concrete examples. At the beginning of December 2020, Amazon then deactivated the merchant's seller account. Again, no specific reasons were given.
Amazon did not respond to the retailer's comment that it did not know what the specific allegations were and could therefore not comment. For this reason, the trader applied to the LG München I for an interim injunction. The LG München I granted this application and based this result on a claim for injunctive relief under antitrust law pursuant to Sections 19 (2) no. 1, 20 (3) sentence 1, 33 (1) sentence 1 GWB.
Can I take legal action against Amazon in German courts?
The first problem was Amazon's registered office. This is in fact in Luxembourg, so that Amazon objected to the international and also the local jurisdiction. The LG München I considered itself to have international jurisdiction pursuant to Art. 7 No. 2 EuGVVO. The trader asserted tortious claims under the UWG and the GWB. In any case, competitive harm can also occur in Germany. Therefore, the court at the seat of the injured party also has international jurisdiction.
The LG München I also considered itself to have territorial jurisdiction pursuant to § 32 ZPO because the claims under unfair competition law and the antitrust claims could also have had an effect in the district of LG München I.
Does Amazon have a dominant position on the market?
In the opinion of the LG München I, Amazon has a dominant market position. LG München I relied on the Bundeskartellamt's press release of 29 November 2018, the EU Commission's proceedings on the e-commerce business practices of Amazon Services Europe S.à.r.l. including the EU Commission's press release of 10 November 2020 issued in this regard and the Bundeskartellamt's case report of 17 July 2019 (B2 - 88/18).
Has Amazon abused its dominant position?
Amazon has unreasonably hindered the merchant by blocking its Amazon Marketplace account without sufficient information about the reasons for the blocking and thereby abused its dominant position. In view of Amazon's dominant position, Amazon must decide on the initiation, termination or restriction of business relationships in a non-discriminatory manner and on the basis of objective considerations. The immediate blocking of Marketplace accounts was one of the critical points that had prompted the Bundeskartellamt to initiate the abuse proceedings (cf. Bundeskartellamt case report of 17.07.2019 (B2 - 88/18).
In the opinion of the LG München I, Amazon should have heard the merchant before blocking him and informed him of the specific allegations. This did not happen.
Can I take action against Amazon by way of an interim injunction?
According to the LG München I, there was also a ground for injunction. The trader could not reasonably be expected to take the long and arduous path of proceedings on the merits. During the main proceedings, the trader would not have generated any sales via Amazon Marketplace, which would have acutely threatened the trader's existence.
We help you unlock your seller account on Amazon
One thing can be said clearly: It is worth defending yourself against a blocking of your Amazon seller account. If the blocking is unjustified, you should seek legal advice immediately. If Amazon justifies the blocking of your Amazon seller account by way of exception, you may still be able to convince Amazon to lift the blocking out of court. To do this, you must prepare a detailed action plan and submit it to Amazon. As a rule, you only have one attempt at this action plan! If you do not convince Amazon, your seller account will remain blocked. It is therefore essential that you seek legal support in drawing up the action plan. We will be happy to support you and help you.
Source: LG München I, order dated 14.01.2021, ref. no. 37 O 32/21
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GoldbergUllrich Lawyers 2021
Julius Oberste-Dommes LL.M. (Information Law)
Specialist lawyer for information technology law