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Amazon.com Antitrust Suit Revival Sought by DC AG Karl Racine (1)

Aug. 25, 2022, 6:26 PMUpdated: Aug. 25, 2022, 7:43 PM

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine filed a notice of appeal in his antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc., five months after a judge dismissed the case.

Racine initially filed the suit in 2021 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, accusing the e-commerce giant of using its dominance in online retail to craft stringent contracts and maintain artificially high prices for consumers and sellers.

“We’re filing an appeal in our antitrust lawsuit against Amazon because consumers deserve a fair online marketplace that promotes competition, innovation, & choice-- not one that’s rigged to line a single company’s pockets,” Racine tweeted after filing the notice Thursday.

Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo dismissed Racine’s suit in March, saying the plaintiff failed to state an anticompetitive effect.

About a month later, Racine asked the court to reconsider its oral dismissal of the case. The DC court rejected the request in August.

The Department of Justice’s antitrust division weighed in to support Racine’s April motion, writing in a statement of interest that the court erred in its dismissal.

“If left uncorrected, the Court’s ruling could jeopardize the enforcement of antitrust law by improperly raising the bar on plaintiffs challenging anticompetitive contractual restraints in the District of Columbia,” attorneys for the DOJ’s antitrust division wrote.

Racine accused Amazon of utilizing a clause in agreements with third-party sellers to prevent them from selling products in other markets at lower prices or with better terms. Such clauses—often referred to as most favored nation agreements—have faced a raft of antitrust challenges in recent years.

The agreements suppressed competition among other online sales platforms and sellers’ own websites, and raised prices for consumers, the complaint alleged.

Amazon didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The case is DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA vs. AMAZON.COM, INC. HEP, D.C. Super. Ct., no. 2021-CA-001775.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Papscun in Washington at dpapscun@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com