A class-action lawsuit alleges (PDF) that Amazon manipulates its platform through a biased algorithm to favor the "Buy Box" for items that generate higher fees for Amazon, often leading consumers to overpay for products that could be obtained cheaper and just as quickly from other sellers on the platform. Ars Technica reports: The lawsuit claims that a biased algorithm drives Amazon's "Buy Box," which appears on an item's page and prompts shoppers to "Buy Now" or "Add to Cart." According to customers suing, nearly 98 percent of Amazon sales are of items featured in the Buy Box, because customers allegedly "reasonably" believe that featured items offer the best deal on the platform. "But they are often wrong," the complaint said, claiming that instead, Amazon features items from its own retailers and sellers that participate in Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), both of which pay Amazon higher fees and gain secret perks like appearing in the Buy Box. "The result is that consumers routinely overpay for items that are available at lower prices from other sellers on Amazonâ"not because consumers don't care about price, or because they're making informed purchasing decisions, but because Amazon has chosen to display the offers for which it will earn the highest fees," the complaint said. Authorities in the US and the European Union have investigated Amazon's allegedly anticompetitive Buy Box algorithm, confirming that it's "favored FBA sellers since at least 2016," the complaint said. In 2021, Amazon was fined more than $1 billion by the Italian Competition Authority over these unfair practices, and in 2022, the European Commission ordered Amazon to "apply equal treatment to all sellers when deciding what to feature in the Buy Box." These investigations served as the first public notice that Amazon's Buy Box couldn't be trusted, customers suing said. Amazon claimed that the algorithm was fixed in 2020, but so far, Amazon does not appear to have addressed all concerns over its Buy Box algorithm. As of 2023, European regulators have continued pushing Amazon "to take further action to remedy its Buy Box bias in their respective jurisdictions," the customers' complaint said.
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