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Prospective Amazon Seller’s Minority Favoritism Case Dismissed on Threshold Issue

Amazon's logo on a glass building.

Palo Alto, CA, USA - Feb 18, 2020: The Amazon logo seen at Amazon campus in Palo Alto, California. The Palo Alto location hosts A9 Search, Amazon Web Services, and Amazon Game Studios teams.

On Thursday, a San Diego, Calif. federal judge dismissed a would-be Amazon seller’s complaint for want of standing, but refused to dismiss the discrimination-related contentions for failure to state claim. The allegations brought by a heterosexual white Southern California man accused Amazon of unfairly discriminating against people like him, and instead favoring minority groups such as those identifying as LGBTQ+, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, and/or female.

As previously reported, the October 2021 suit stated claims under California’s anti-discrimination and civil rights laws. Importantly, the plaintiff said though he was poised to sell wares on Amazon’s marketplace, he had not yet sold or offered anything for sale, owing to the benefits bestowed upon groups other than his own like business kick-starter programs, bonuses, and credits.

The complainant argued that Amazon’s practices buck the notion of equal opportunity and sought to certify a class of heterosexual white men who either sold something on Amazon or considered doing so and suffered from the e-commerce company’s allegedly discriminatory practices.

Amazon moved to dismiss on the two-fold basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, specifically standing, and failure to state a claim.

In this week’s opinion, Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz said that the plaintiff failed to plead injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. “Here, while Correll identifies his interest in selling with Amazon and offers the two dates he visited the site to set up an account, he does not allege that he was able and ready to sell a product, or that he even had a product to offer,” the court explained.

Judge Moskowitz then undertook a failure to state a claim analysis, making mention of several comparable cases that provided helpful benchmarks. He said that unlike the other cases, Amazon’s policies neither exclude other sellers from joining the website, nor do they lack public policy justifications.

The court said that though Amazon’s initiatives “echo existing statutes that promote diversity and serve public policy goals … the circumstances concerning how the programs function are relevant to the exception.” Accordingly, Judge Moskowitz ruled that a decision on the current record would be premature and conditionally reserved it for summary judgment. 

The plaintiff has until October 31 to replead his case. He is represented by Greg Adler P.C. and Amazon by Latham & Watkins

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