By Mike Scarcella
Sept 7 (Reuters) - Amazon.com AMZN.O must face a prospective consumer class action in Seattle federal court accusing the online retail giant of a price-fixing scheme that has artificially inflated prices for numerous goods on its platform, a judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge John Chun in a 24-page order said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, five residents of California and Maryland who said they regularly shop using Amazon's website, could advance their claims challenging Amazon's pricing policies.
The consumer plaintiffs, Chun wrote, "allege the type of conduct that antitrust law is intended to prevent." The ruling means the plaintiffs can pursue the merits of their claims, and Amazon will have a chance later to argue that the facts do not support any wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for Amazon and lawyers defending the company in the litigation did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Steve Berman, said they were "thrilled by the order" and look forward to prosecuting the case.
The lawsuit is among several private and state civil actions that accuse Amazon of business practices violating either consumer protection laws or antitrust provisions.
The ruling comes as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is weighing a lawsuit against Amazon.
The consumers' lawsuit filed in July 2022 challenged Amazon's "minimum margin agreements" with its merchandise suppliers. The plaintiffs alleged those deals have prohibited non-Amazon retailers from selling the same product elsewhere for a lower price.
Chun ruled that the consumers could proceed with the case since they bought Amazon items that had prices allegedly affected by the company's supplier deals.
The plaintiffs' complaint sufficiently alleged conduct that, if proven true, "results in reduced consumer choices and an increase in prices of products bought by consumers," Chun wrote.
The plaintiffs are seeking nationwide class-action status and triple damage under U.S. antitrust law.
The case is Christopher Brown et al v. Amazon.com Inc, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:22-cv-00965-JHC.
For plaintiffs: Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro; Zina Bash and Warren Postman of Keller Postman; and Alicia Cobb, Steig Olson and Adam Wolfson of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
For defendant: Stephen Rummage and John Goldmark of Davis Wright Tremaine; and Karen Dunn and Bill Isaacson of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
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