The German Federal Union of Consumer Organisations and Associations said Amazon’s German website breached the country’s consumer protection laws by not informing consumers in a clear and comprehensible manner about its telephone and fax numbers.
Amazon’s automated call-back facility and an online chat service were insufficient to show that it had lived up to its legal obligation, the federation said.
But the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union disagreed.
“An e-commerce platform such as Amazon is not obliged in all cases to make a telephone number available to consumers before the conclusion of a contract”, judges said.
The court said other factors need to be considered apart from consumer rights.
“It is necessary to strike the right balance between a high level of consumer protection and the competitiveness of enterprises”, it said.
Amazon must provide consumers with a means of communication allowing them to contact it quickly and to communicate with it efficiently, the court said.
Amazon welcomed the decision, saying “We were always confident that our call back service is fast, efficient and customer focused. The ECJ has now confirmed that the possibilities we offer for establishing contact are in line with the spirit and purpose as well as the requirements of the Consumer Rights Directive.”
The ruling could lighten the burden for online merchants, especially small retailers, while paving the way for cheaper automation.