Amazon’s Dutch Data Privacy Case May Decide Future of European Class Actions

neub9
By neub9
4 Min Read

In late 2021, a Dutch consumer rights group sued Amazon, alleging that the company tracks users’ online activity without their permission, which is similar to a 2021 case where Amazon violated the GDPR. This class action is one of the first major cases since the EU made it easier for consumers to file class-action claims. Law student Chelsea Burkhart reflects on whether the new law will benefit wronged consumers or overwhelm the court system.

The latest lawsuit against Amazon in the Netherlands has broader implications for public policy beyond the individual case. Stichting Data Bescherming Nederland (SDBN) filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon for violating EU privacy law after the EU implemented a law in June making it easier for consumer groups to bring class-action cases against companies. This new law will change not only how consumers seek redress, but also how EU law firms operate.

Background of the case

SDBN alleges that Amazon collects personal data from cookies and tracks consumers’ behavior across the internet to sell targeted advertising space without their permission. The new class-action suit represents around 5 million Amazon account holders in the Netherlands whose behavior is tracked across various websites and Amazon in order to sell specifically targeted advertisement space. 

Amazon was fined a record $887 million for a similar EU data-protection law violation in 2021. The company was fined for violating the GDPR, a piece of legislation aimed to protect consumers’ data collected by companies by ensuring clear and easily revocable consent for data tracking, as well as prompt data breach notifications to authorities. The new SDBN suit partly mirrors the previous record-breaking fine due to the dispute over tracked behavior and targeted advertisements.

Amazon has maintained that privacy and security of its customers is its priority, appealing the previous Luxembourg privacy regulator’s penalty.

A test of new EU law

The class-action suit against Amazon is not only a test of the company’s compliance program but also a reflection of the delicate balance between consumer protection and preserving court resources in light of the EU’s new class-action laws.

The broader challenge of reconciling consumer interests while acknowledging the practicalities of the legal system in a technological age is evident. EU legislation over the past five years has aimed to protect citizens through privacy regulation and the ability to take part in class-action suits, extending beyond the traditional American form of redress.

The issue, however, lies in whether European courts are prepared for the aggressive and costly nature of class-action suits. Class-action suits can be expensive for companies and weigh heavily on court resources, as EU members are directed to enable suits within existing court structures instead of creating new corresponding courts.

The outcome of this case will offer insights into future implications for businesses, specifically large corporations, and the EU’s legal system as it adapts to the evolving landscape of consumer protection and class-action litigation.

Compliance officers across Europe now have the ability to weigh these risks before additional waves of class-action suits occur. Ultimately, though, compliance departments and businesses worldwide will find direction as they watch Amazon grapple with Europe’s newest class-action legislation. The outcome of this battle for consumers’ rights against court resources and company profits might simultaneously rely on and decide the future of European consumer data privacy protection.

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