Amazon GmbH (Germany)

vs. Amazon Service Europe Sàrl (Luxembourg)

Early 2016, I had moved past the BS1363 episode and back to business. I sent out some replenishment, a shipment of 83 cartons containing nearly 4000 padlocks and 500 mini stands / phone supports to an Amazon FBA center in Germany. That volume of goods takes 2 Euro-pallets to stack. The padlocks alone (82 cartons) were ready when my transporter informed me of a single incoming carton containing the 500 phone support units. I did not think this through and told them to add the carton to the pallets for the oncoming Amazon delivery and just created  another separate FBA shipment into SellerCentral.

Big, big mistake. Unbeknown to me, having 2 FBA references in a single delivery was (still is) against Amazon policy.

26 February 2016, the transporter arrives at the designated Amazon facility, signs and scans for delivery. Amazon dock staff signs on the reference for 82 cartons, and manually annotates “Nicht erwartet», or “not expected” on  the second reference for the phone support. At the time, I was unaware that this had occurred. My main shipment was marked as if it had been received, and no indication was made for the second. I could easily imagine that a single carton amid 82 all-similar looking cartons would not stand out and did not really worry, I thought it would simply be eventually spotted at unpacking.

I started to wonder when, after a couple of weeks, the unpacking seemed to have stopped at a number of units below one half the quantity originally sent (with an amount that was not a multiple of the content of standard cartons), with zero phone support units accounted for. At no time did Amazon inform me of a discrepancy in the unpacking, or any other issue. I had to seek and slowly find out all that information myself.

You can guess the outcome, the remainder of that particular shipment would never be seen again. What happened to it will probably forever remain a mystery, but what is not a mystery, on the other hand, is Amazon’s attitude throughout.

For weeks and months (yes, months!), Seller Support first claimed that the delivery did NOT occur altogether (in spite of the units accounted for showing up in my inventory). Incompetence pattern, anyone? Then, they claimed that the shipment was ever only 1 pallet, then that maybe it was indeed 2 pallets but one had clearly been returned to the transporter who must have been the culprit, and on, and on, always chasing what could possibly the wildest explanation. And oh, no log from any internal system showing any of the goods, no video from the reception dock. Simply put, they made absolutely every possible effort to be difficult. Finally, Because those units had obviously not been lost by Amazon (if they ever existed in the first place), I was informed that zero reimbursement would take place, not even at sourcing cost value (and that my own purchase invoices were not acceptable anyway). Meanwhile, from day one, the transporter had someone on the job, interviewing the driver, getting every possible receipt and paper trail to prove the delivery. Notice any difference in attitude here?

What would you have done? Well, after exhausting every avenue with Seller Support, I went to a lawyer in Germany (where the goods had been lost) to ask for arbitration: Who, between Amazon and the transporter, could be responsible for the loss of my goods?

Fair enough?

Transporter said sure: we’ll be there, and they did, show up at the judge’s request.

Amazon GmbH in Germany? They sent notification to the court that basically said: We have zero contract with the plaintiff. We are a contractor to Amazon Service Europe Sàrl based in Luxembourg. We do not know the plaintiff, are unaware of any condition for any delivery and whatever we signed was done with the transporter, so if anything, we’ll respond to the transporter, not whoever it is that is complaining.

Speechless! The gall of those people! My lawyer tried to argue that Amazon Service Europe in Luxembourg  had been informed since day one of that procedure and had just kept silent throughout (after acknowledging the contact from my lawyer, which proves Luxembourg’ knowledge and involvement, which will become important later). Anyway, re-reading through my contract, a clause indeed said that the only Luxembourg court had jurisdiction for any grief with Amazon Europe, and we had not seen it.

By the way, that famous clause was later deemed abusive and therefore illegal, and scrapped by Amazon in 2019, but in 2016 and 2017, it was in my contract and it  cost me this German procedure, my legal costs, those of the transporter and I even paid for the lawyer fees of Amazon (yes I did!). Today, you are supposed to be able to seek answers from Amazon locally in your country (at least in Europe). Pay attention to your contract, people!

This reminds me. Every now and then, Amazon will send you a message that says that your contract is being unilaterally amended and that unless you specifically object (and therefore renounce selling on Amazon), the new clauses will apply. They will send you a link to your new terms without outlining the difference with the last one. Do that a couple of times without keeping track and be prepared for surprises discovering the new clauses that you have “accepted”!

Click on the thumbnail images to see the initial court registration (December 2016) and court decision (June 2017), in German and machine-translated for reference. Those are public documents (you can get the full unredacted originals directly from the Dortmund Court Registry). Main points from the records provided here solely for reference.

So, shall I rephrase? I just lost my case on a technicality, lost the goods’ value, paid for 3 sets of lawyers (mine, transporter and Amazon) court fees, and Amazon just brushed everything off, not having responded to anything my lawyer had legitimately asked. That’s how amateurish I was! My original loss had just ballooned and somebody was laughing all the way to the bank getting lawyer fees for basically doing nothing and dodging everything. One round of applause for the Master, please!

As for me, well, I was sorely beaten, Naturlicht! Disgusted and beaten, but hopeful that I would eventually recover and move forward. After all, what else could I do? I had a family to attend to and I still needed to make a living. I thought I could someday put all this behind me.

Amazon would make sure this did not happen.

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