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Verdicts & Settlements

D.C. Court Scraps Amazon Antitrust Lawsuit

— March 20, 2022

Washington, D.C., Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo did not provide an explanation as to why she decided to dismiss D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s antitrust lawsuit.

A Washington, D.C.-based judge has dismissed a groundbreaking government lawsuit alleging that Amazon violated antitrust laws.

According to The Verge, D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the complaint, which was filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

The lawsuit, adds The Verge, had accused Amazon of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by preventing third-party sellers from offering lower product prices on other websites, including platforms owned by the third-party sellers.

The New York Times notes that, in many cases, Amazon pressured merchants into offering their lowest prices on

Amazon’s pressure-heavy tactics, said the lawsuit, forced many merchants to raise their prices across different websites and platforms.

However, the Times­—which was the first outlet to publish news of Puig-Lugo’s decision—did not indicate whether the judge had explained her decision to dismiss.

Amazon has already celebrated the ruling, saying that A.G. Racine’s office misunderstood how the platform does business.

One Amazon spokesperson, for instance, told Engadget that many merchants set their own prices—prices that Amazon purportedly cannot control.

Karl Racine, Washington, D.C.’s first elected attorney general. Image via Wikimedia Commons via D.C. government. (CCA-BY-1.0).

However, the same spokesperson indicated that Amazon does use coercive tactics to ensure that merchants are not offering less-than-competitive prices on Amazon.

“The D.C. Attorney General has it exactly backwards—sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store,” a spokesperson told Engadget when the lawsuit was first filed. “Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right to not highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively.”

“The relief the A.G. seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law,” the spokesperson added.

While the ruling may prove a temporary setback for Amazon opponents, a spokesperson for Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said his office plans to either appeal the decision or re-file the complaint.

“We believe that the Superior Court got this wrong, and its oral ruling did not seem to consider the detailed allegations of the complaint, the full scope of the anticompetitive agreements, the extensive briefing, and a recent decision of a federal court to allow a nearly identical lawsuit to move forward,” Racine spokesperson Melissa Geller said in a statement.

“We are considering our legal options and we’ll continue fighting to develop reasoned antitrust jurisprudence in our local courts and to hold Amazon accountable for using its concentrated power to unfairly tilt the playing field in its favor,” Racine’s office said.


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