58 Ariz. L. Rev. [i] (2016)
The Secession of the Successful: The Rise of Amazon as Private Global Consumer Protection Regulator

handle is hein.journals/arz58 and id is 201 raw text is: 














   THE SECESSION OF THE SUCCESSFUL: THE

      RISE OF AMAZON AS PRIVATE GLOBAL

      CONSUMER PROTECTION REGULATOR



                             Jane K.  Winn*




In 2005, the Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions (AFFECT)
coalition issued a list of 12 principles it hoped would contribute to a new
consensus about what  constitutes fairness in online consumer transactions. A
decade later, a cursory review of different jurisdictions indicates that, while there
has been little discernable progress in the direction of the principles in the United
States, other jurisdictions such as the European Union have made more progress.
However, the one jurisdiction in the world that comes closest to implementing all
12  principles across the full spectrum of consumer  transactions is not a
government at all, but Amazon acting as a private regulator. Amazon's status as a
regulator arises out of its ownership of a multi-sided platform that acts as a
global retail marketplace. The rise of global platforms such as Amazon, Google,
Apple, Facebook,  and  Microsoft that own  global online marketplaces and
simultaneously act as their primary regulators calls to mind the Secession of the
Successful described by Robert Reich in 1991-the withdrawal from civil society
of the wealthy and powerful into private gated communities. Amazon's status as
the primary de facto regulator of the marketplace it owns combined with its single-
minded pursuit of customer satisfaction contributes to relations with its employees
and suppliers that are often profoundly problematic. When a platform operator is
also the primary regulator of the market it creates, negative spillover effects may
occur: squeezing employees and suppliers to insure that consumers get whatever
they want merely pushes conflict from one part of the platform ecosystem to
another. When this occurs, it does not make online commerce fairer overall, which
was the implicit goal of the 12 principles. Although transaction-level norms such
as those found in the 12 principles cannot ensure that all stakeholders in online
marketplaces are treated fairly, other forms of regulation might be more effective
in contributing to that goal.


       *    Charles I. Stone Professor, University of Washington School of Law. Many
thanks to my research assistants Louie Li and Ellie Page for their help.

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