Customer complaints against Amazon have become a dime-a-dozen thanks to a hack in 2017 of more than 143 million Americans' credit card numbers in association with a data breach for the retail giant.
But two Louisiana residents, who just happen to be prominent litigators, have decided it’s time to make Jeff Bezos more accountable.
Attorneys Stuart H. Smith and Barry J. Cooper, Jr. of New Orleans discovered last summer that more than $9000 had been charged to Mr. Cooper’s credit cards for the purchase of 50 “crates” of virtual assault rifles to use in online video games. Because each charge was $200, fraud detection did not kick in until the scam added up.
Mr. Cooper stopped payment of the fraudulent charges and Amazon responded by freezing his account—even though the scam was perpetrated by a wholly-owned Amazon subsidiary, Twitch Interactive. His account remains frozen and ironically so is Mr. Smith’s, since as his husband, he is associated with Mr. Cooper.
The two attorneys repeatedly tried to resolve the matter through personal and written correspondence, but now feel forced to put the Seattle-based tech retailer on notice of their intention to sue Amazon allowing the egregious data breach and for violating Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act in hounding the two over these fraudulent charges. Mr. Cooper and Mr. Smith are domiciled in New Orleans and the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act bars companies from seeking to collect fees from fraudulent activity such as the hacking of Cooper’s account.
“It shouldn’t have had to come with this. But going to court seems to be the only way to get the attention of a company whose owner Jeff Bezos has become the richest man in the history of the planet and that has grown so arrogant that rather than profusely apologize to its customers for a significant privacy breach and trying to track down and arrest the criminals, it adds insult to injury by blocking and billing the victims,” said Mr. Smith in a written statement.
“Amazon is harassing two longtime Prime account holders, when it could have reported this data breach to the proper authorities, identified the thieves and worked with law enforcement to make the criminals repay the money. Surely Twitch Interactive — Amazon’s wholly owned subsidiary and retailer of the virtual rifles — could help identify who the wrongdoers are. A theft of this magnitude is punishable with substantial prison time,” Mr. Smith added.
Amazon controls nearly half of the online retail market in the U.S., and is “the judge, the jury, and the executioner” in its actions, according to critical reports. The filed legal action on Cooper’s behalf seeking damages from Amazon for the data breach and for its clear violation of the Additionally, the attorneys claim the firm is in violation of both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as the Louisiana Fair Debt Collection Act for its multiple, bad-faith efforts to coerce Cooper into paying for the bogus charges. It asks Amazon to halt its collection activities and restore Cooper’s account. A copy of the letter was forwarded to Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry.
"When customers plea for help, Amazon does not pick up the phone. But you know what: A jury can make Jeff Bezos pick up the phone. That is the beauty of our incredible Constitution, that gives us the right to speak truth to power,” said Mr. Smith. He has also taken his case to every member of the U.S. Congress. “This is a matter of justice not just for one consumer, but for the millions of consumers who are at risk both from Amazon’s reckless handling of their most personal and private data and from the arrogance of Jeff Bezos’s monopolistic giant, which functions less as a corporation and more as a rogue state making its own harsh and inscrutable rules.”
One Senator, Elizabeth Warren, has already declared that it’s past time for government regulators to break up the tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google. The Democratic presidential candidate told a rally in Queens, N.Y., that Amazon reminds her of the dystopian novel “The Hunger Games,” with its ability to impose its will on the less-fortunate masses. “I’m sick of freeloading billionaires!” she proclaimed.
“Amazon has a choice. It can start taking its awesome public trust to safeguard the data of its customers – and to treat them as human beings – more seriously. Or it can face the growing chorus calling for a more sweeping kind of change who say it is time for Bezos’ empire to be broken up,” said Mr. Smith.
Stuart H. Smithis an attorney with the Cooper Law Firm of New Orleans and author of Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America.