A lawsuit filed on Tuesday against Amazon.com Inc. accuses the company of short-changing subscribers of its premium Amazon Prime service by eliminating free grocery delivery from Whole Foods Market and instituting a $9.95 delivery charge instead. The complaint says that Amazon’s removal of the benefit in October 2021 was unilateral and without partial refund, depriving Prime subscribers who paid $119 annually of a substantial benefit.
The subscribers explain that Amazon added the perk in 2018, the year after its $13 billion purchase of high-end supermarket chain Whole Foods. With a minimum purchase of $35, Prime subscribers in a delivery area could enjoy free delivery daily, a perk which reportedly became a flagship Prime feature during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the complaint, Whole Foods delivery orders tripled between 2019 and 2020, with the company earning over $33.6 billion in net income.
Despite its earnings, Amazon rescinded the benefit customers had both become accustomed to and contractually entitled to, the filing says. It points to numerous anecdotal accounts of consumer outrage following Amazon’s announcement and says they were right to be upset because the company neither reduced the price of Prime membership nor offered subscribers a partial refund.
The suit states claims for violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act for engaging in unfair practices, for breach of contract, for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and for unjust enrichment. The two California plaintiffs seek to represent a class of Prime subscribers who paid for the premium feature and used the Whole Foods delivery perk prior to the delivery fee’s introduction.