DC Attorney General Loses Again in Antitrust Claims Against Amazon
WASHINGTON — Washington, D.C.’s attorney general lost again Monday in an attempt to hold Amazon.com liable for alleged antitrust violations.
Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed an anti-competition lawsuit last year that accused Amazon of unfair trade practices that included using overly restrictive contracts with businesses that sell products on the e-commerce giant’s website.
The result was higher prices for consumers and less competition, according to the lawsuit.
In March, a District of Columbia Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying it lacked evidence Amazon’s business strategy led to higher prices for e-commerce customers.
The attorney general’s office responded by asking Judge Hiram E. Puig-Lugo to reconsider.
His second ruling issued Monday was essentially the same as the first, namely that Amazon used a smart business strategy that showed no evidence of violating any laws.
“The problem with the complaint was that the District recited conclusory statements while failing to identify information which supported the conclusions it reached,” Puig-Lugo wrote in his 18-page order. “The mere repetition of conclusions does not convert conclusions into facts.”
The judge said the attorney general failed to show Amazon forced competitors like Walmart, Costco or Target to raise their retail prices or prevented them from matching Amazon’s prices.
The lawsuit had argued that “there is a dangerous possibility” Amazon would gain an e-commerce monopoly because it controls half to 70% of online sales.
Puig-Lugo disagreed, writing that “merely controlling a dominant share of the market does not satisfy pleading requirements for antitrust actions, particularly in pandemic times when online delivery sales have increased. In any event, sellers are free to migrate to other online platforms as market dynamics continue to unfold.”
The attorney general’s office said it was considering the possibility of an appeal.
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision and we respectfully believe that the judge got this wrong,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said. “Indeed, a recent federal court decision analyzed a nearly identical issue and rejected Amazon’s request to dismiss that case.”
The case is District of Columbia v. Amazon.com Inc., case number 2021 CA 001775 B, in Washington, D.C. Superior Court.
Tom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @tramstack.