Amazon Dash Buttons Ruled Illegal In Germany For... Making It Too Easy To Buy Stuff

from the can't-have-any-of-that-now dept

You can count me among those who don't see the value in those Amazon Dash buttons that got plenty of attention a few years back, allowing those who had the little single-button devices to re-order some consumable product with the push of a single button. Even if lots of people made fun of them at launch, Amazon has expanded them to many more brands. So, even if I don't see the value, it appears plenty of people do. Except, in Germany, they're now illegal, because apparently some people are upset that they make things too easy to order.

The ruling came after a regional consumer protection watchdog brought a case against Amazon, arguing that the Dash buttons violate laws that say shoppers should know what they are paying at the time of any transaction.

“We are always open to innovation. But if innovation means that the consumer is put at a disadvantage and price comparisons are made difficult then we fight that,” Wolfgang Schuldzinski, head of the consumer body, said in a statement.

Huh? If users decide to buy a button that lets them reorder, then... what's the problem here. Yes, they may end up paying more than other retailers, but it's the consumers who are making that decision, suggesting that they value the convenience more than the ability to hunt for the best deal.

This fits with other European legal trends, in which courts and regulators really don't seem to think the public ought to be able to make any decisions themselves about what they prefer online, and must be "protected" from their own decisions. What, exactly, is the benefit here? How are consumers better off if the solution they appear to want, which they had to pay for, is no longer considered legal?

I could (maybe?) understand if the argument was that Amazon was somehow leveraging its market position to push people into using these things, but I've seen no evidence that that's true at all. Indeed, I basically forgot these little buttons existed after hearing about them at launch. I get that European courts (and German ones, in particular) like to think they're protecting consumers more than the US, but in this case it makes no sense. If consumers feel ripped off by the buttons, they won't buy them (or they'll stop using them). Why do we need a court to make them illegal?

Filed Under: convenience, dash, dash button, germany, purchasing, transparency
Companies: amazon


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  1. identicon
    Terse, 16 Jan 2019 @ 3:32am

    I believe the argument here is about the predictability of the purchase. If I understand the issue correctly, the problem is that Amazon reserves the right to change the price from one order to the next and to send a replacement “equivalent” item if the item for which the button was originally configured is not available.

    The German ruling makes sense to me in that it merely seems to ask Amazon to commit to ① always sending the same thing and ② always sending it for the same price, so that consumers can use the button without fear of being overcharged or being sent something they were not planning on buying.

    This seems reasonable to me… The debate, of course, is whether a company should be allowed to make price adjustments or offer replacements without warning the customer. It will be acceptable to some and not to others, and Amazon could presumably get away with asking better questions at setup and/or pushing a mobile app alert when the button’s parameters change, before the first order after such a change goes through.

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