When two worlds collide: consumer protection law vs the Amazon Dash Button

5 March, 2019

alekseystr © 123RF.com

A few days ago, Amazon announced it would no longer be offering for sale its physical version of the Amazon Dash button.  Whilst they will continue to sell the virtual Dash Buttons which sit on your smart phone or tablet for example, Amazon has says that it has stopped producing the plastic buttons because customers are using more of the virtual buttons or other methods of automatic re-ordering.  Amazon’s decision however comes shortly after a recent ruling by a German court holding that the Amazon Dash button breached consumer law.  Even if this particular product is no longer on the market, the legal decision still has potential implications for retailers, designers and developers of consumer products in the UK.

UK consumer protection rules, in the form of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, are based on the same EU laws that the German courts were interpreting when they ruled earlier this year that the button was unlawful because it didn’t have the requisite “pay now” label.  One look at the physical Amazon Dash button will quickly show you why the problem arose.  Unlike ordering from an app or a website with an electronic “button”, where labels and information can be easily displayed before or alongside, the Amazon product is a real button that you press to re-order the particular product with which it is associated.  Room to write on it is therefore limited.

Even if the words can be printed onto the button, the provision of the pre-contractual information required by the UK Regulations to be supplied to the consumer before he or she makes the purchase, such as the price, delivery information and main characteristics of the goods would seem more difficult.  This may also put such a product in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which oblige traders to communicated all material information in a timely manner.

The button is wi-fi connected so that orders are managed through Amazon’s mobile app, and customers can chose to be notified when they have placed an order, but your mobile device may be not immediately present when you press the button to re-order.  The German court also took issue with this particularly because in its terms and conditions Amazon reserves the right to change the price or even deliver a different product.

Amazon said they would appeal the ruling, so we will watch this space, especially given their commercial decision to withdraw the product.  However, in any case, UK businesses should be mindful of consumer protection law in the design of their products.  A re-design will be more costly in time and money than would be simply amending website terms and conditions.

For further information on this or any aspect of tech or consumer law, please contact Elliot Fry on elliot.fry@crippspg.co.uk.

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