Amazon Sued For Ability to Remove “Bought” Movies

Plaintiff Amanda Caudel filed a class action complaint against Amazon regarding the ability for users to “buy” movies, television shows, and other forms of digital video content. Consumers, the complaint alleged, believed they owned this content and could view it at their will; however, the plaintiff alleged this was false because Amazon could remove content if there was an issue with a licensing agreement or for other reasons. Amazon was accused of violating California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, California’s False Advertising Law, and California’s Unfair Competition Law.

On Amazon, a consumer can “rent” video content “for a fee of around $5.99, the consumer will have access to the Video Content for 30 days and then for 48 hours after the consumer first watches the Video Content. For a much higher fee of around $19.99, Defendant offers the option to ‘Buy’ the Video Content.” When a user clicks the “Buy” button “the Video Content instantly becomes available in the consumer’s video library without the consumer needing to accept any terms and conditions pursuant to a clickwrap agreement.”

Clicking on “Video Purchases & Rentals” shows consumers all the video content they have rented and bought on Amazon that is available. Caudel stated that “[r]easonable consumers will expect that the use of a ‘Buy’ button and the representation that their Video Content is a ‘Purchase’ means that the consumer has paid for full access to the Video Content and, like any bought product, that access cannot be revoked.” However, “Defendant secretly reserves the right to terminate the consumers’ access and use of the Video Content at any time, despite consumers’ beliefs that they have already bought this Video Content.”

Caudel stated that by “representing the ‘Purchase’ of Video Content as true ownership of the content, Defendant took advantage of the (1) cognitive shortcuts made at the point-of-sale, e.g. Rent v. Buy and (2) price of the Video Content, which is akin to an outright purchase versus a rental.” Supposedly, some consumers may find that the content they bought is no longer accessible. Plaintiff states that “all consumers have overpaid for the Video Content because they are not in fact owners of the Video Content, despite have paid extra money to ‘Buy’ the product.”

The complaint accused Amazon of violating California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, as well as the False Advertising Law because Amazon “engaged in its advertising and marketing with intent to directly induce consumers, including Plaintiff and the Class members, to purchase the Video Content based on Defendant’s false and misleading representations and omissions.” Amazon also allegedly violated California’s Unfair Competition Law through its unlawful and deceptive business practices in relation to buying video content. 

The suit is filed in the Eastern District of California. Caudel is represented by Reese Richman.