Amazon Wipes Customer's Account, Locks All Ebooks, Says 'Find A New Retailer' When She Asks Why

from the kafka-would-be-proud dept

Techdirt has been warning people for several years that they don't really own the ebooks they have on their Amazon Kindles. The most famous demonstration of this was the sudden disappearance of ebook versions of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm (you can't make this stuff up.) But that's nothing compared to what an Amazon customer in Norway now claims the company has done: shut down her Amazon account permanently and locked her Kindle -- all without explanation.

When her ebooks became unavailable, Linn Jordet Nygaard, the customer in question, contacted Amazon to find out what had happened. She received the following reply:

We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.
But the account holder claims to know nothing about any other account, and so she wrote back asking for more details:
As previously advised, your account has been closed, as it has come to our attention that this account is related to a previously blocked account. While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened.

Please understand that the closure of an account is a permanent action. Any subsequent accounts that are opened will be closed as well. Thank you for your understanding with our decision.
Unhelpfully, then, Amazon simply re-iterated that the newly-closed account was "related" to another, previously blocked account, wouldn't say why, and emphasized that this was an irrevocable ban, even to the extent of refusing to allow the person accused of this unspecified transgression to open any other account at any point in the future.

Again, Jordet Nygaard not unreasonably sought to find out what the problem was so that she could try to address it. This time, she received an email that is not only willfully unhelpful, but positively insulting thanks to a cheesy veneer of bogus sympathy that has been added for good measure:

We regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

We wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.
Of course, this is a totally Kafkaesque situation: found guilty of a crime you are not allowed to know, with no way to appeal. Over on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow has an interesting theory about what might be the issue here:
I'd further speculate that the policy violation that Linn stands accused of is using a friend's UK address to buy Amazon UK English Kindle books from Norway. This is a symptom of Amazon's -- and every single other ebook retailer's -- hopelessness at managing "open territory" for ebooks.
That sounds very plausible, and means that Jordet Nygaard is essentially being punished for the publishing industry's incompetence when it comes to operating in a global online market, where national boundaries make no sense. Bad as that is, it's only a side issue here. What's most troubling is that Amazon not only closed down Jordet Nygaard's account, forbade her from ever opening up one again, and refused to discuss any aspect of its actions with her, but that it apparently has the capability to lock her out from all Kindle ebooks on any device -- and did so.

If you didn't take the hint when Amazon erased a couple of Orwell's books back in 2009, maybe this latest case involving the alleged remote lockout from all ebooks will finally get across the key message here: those Kindle ebooks you thought you had purchased, are actually only rented to you, and can be denied to you without explanation, and without recompense, any time Amazon wants to. The only ebooks you will ever truly own are those stored in open formats without DRM, which therefore allow backups to be made, and used anywhere.

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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 22 Oct 2012 @ 9:36am

    Of course, this is a totally Kafkaesque situation: found guilty of a crime you are not allowed to know, with no way to appeal.

    This is exactly how the web site operates as well. Strangely enough, the IMDb is labeled as an company...

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