Amazon and the Dark Side of DRM

DRM: Digital Restrictions Management. Some people use the word “Rights,” but as the following incident shows, it has nothing at all to do with consumers’ rights, as it appears they have none.

Martin Bekkelund, a Norwegian IT director, planner and commentator, shares the story of Linn, whose Amazon account was blocked and her Kindle wiped with no warning and no explanation. When she inquired what was going on, she generated the following mail exchange:

Dear Linn [last name],

My name is Michael Murphy and I represent Executive Customer Relations within Amazon.co.uk. One of our mandates is to address the most acute account and order problems, and in this capacity your account and orders have been brought to my attention.

We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.

Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.

Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action.

You may direct any questions to me at resolution-uk@amazon.co.uk.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Regards

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

Linn responded thusly:

Dear Michael Murphy,

I am very surprised to read your email. What do you mean by “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies”. I can only remember ever having this one account, and I use it quite regularly to buy books for my Kindle, as you probably can see by my purchase history. How can there suddenly be a problem now? I use amazon.com and not co.uk for my Kindle, does that make any difference?

I sincerely hope you can help me solve this matter, because I would very much like to have my account reopened. And please let me know if there is any action I can take to help.

Best regards,
Linn [last name]
[Linn’s phone number]

All Linn got back was more corporate weasel-words:

Dear Linn [last name],

As previously advised, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed, as it has come to our attention that this account is related to a previously blocked account. While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened.

Please understand that the closure of an account is a permanent action. Any subsequent accounts that are opened will be closed as well. Thank you for your understanding with our decision.

I appreciate this is not the outcome you hoped for and apologise for any disappointment this may cause.

Regards,

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

Hoping for some clearer guidelines as to why her account was closed, Linn responded:

Dear Michael Murphy,

Is it correct that you cannot give me any information about
1. How my account is linked to the blocked account
2. The name/id of the related blocked account
3. What policy that was violated

I have no knowledge about any other account that could be related to mine, and cannot understand how I could have violated your policies in any way.

Br,
Linn [last name]

Murphy spouts the company line:

Dear Linn [last name],

We regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

We wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Regards

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.co.uk

So in the end, Amazon’s reasoned answer to a consumer who has bought their products and paid for them, and who now has had those products forcibly repossessed and her Kindle effectively bricked, is:

because, that’s why.

Nice, Amazon. I’ve had an account with your company for a long time. I’m thinking about whether I need to “locate another retailer better able to meet my needs,” and recommending to all my friends that they do the same. In the best-case scenario, Amazon will recognize that they cannot afford the firestorm of negative publicity they have unleashed with this  example of corporate douchebaggery and will either rectify the situation or give Linn a compelling reason for why her account was terminated.

Oh, and by the way – take note of that email address (resolution-uk@amazon.co.uk) and tell Michael what you think about all of this. I did.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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