Class Action Defense Cases–Baghdasarian v. Amazon: California Federal Court Grants Class Action Treatment To UCL/CLRA Class Action Against Amazon.Com Concerning Shipping And Handling Fees

Oct 22, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Complaint Against Amazon Challenging Shipping and Handling Fees Satisfied Rule 23 Requirements for Class Action Treatment California Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action against alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA); specifically, the class action complaint alleged that Amazon, in addition to receiving “a sales commission and a percentage of the sales price for each item sold,” charged shipping and handling fees to buyers “without input from Marketplace Sellers” even though it was the sellers who “took care of packaging and shipping products.” Baghdasarian v. Amazon.Com, Inc., 258 F.R.D. 383, 385 (C.D. Cal. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, Amazon failed to disclose to buyers that it kept a portion of the shipping and handling fees and this act was “fraudulent” within the meaning of the UCL and CLRA, id. Plaintiff decided not to seek class action treatment of the class action complaint’s CLRA claim, but moved for class action certification of the UCL claim. Id. Plaintiff argued that the lawsuit satisfied the requirements for class action certification under Rule 23(b)(3), id., at 386. Defense attorneys opposed class action treatment, but the district court granted the motion.

The district court first held that plaintiff had standing to prosecute the class action. See Baghdasarian, at 386-87. Specifically, the federal court held that plaintiff had standing to prosecute the class action’s UCL claim, rejecting defense arguments that plaintiff had not suffered any economic harm because he “received the benefit of his bargain.” See id., at 386-87. The court also had little difficulty in finding that the requirements of Rule 23(a) for class action certification had been met. Id., at 388-89. The court also found that the class action requirements for certification under Rule 23(b)(3) had been met. The federal court readily found that the predominance test had been satisfied, see id., at 389-90, and also concluded that a class action would be “the most efficient way to resolve the claims of all class members, especially since the individual claims are small and economically unfeasible to litigate individually,” id., at 390, thus satisfying the superiority prong of Rule 23(b)(3). Accordingly, the district court granted plaintiff’s motion for class certification, see id., at 391.

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