Amazon.com LLC (“Amazon”) has filed a complaint for declaratory relief alleging that its compliance with the North Carolina Department of Revenue’s demand for personally identifiable information about its customers would violate the First Amendment rights of Amazon and its customers. As part of the DOR’s audit of Amazon’s compliance with state sales and use tax laws, Amazon has provided the DOR with each transaction’s order ID number, the city, county, and zip code to which the item was shipped, the total price for the transaction, and the Amazon standard product code for each item, which the DOR can use to immediately find on Amazon’s website a full description of every product purchased by a North Carolina customer. In addition to this information, the DOR is requesting the name and address of every North Carolina customer who purchased or received goods in these transactions, and has stated its plans to serve Amazon an administrative summons and summary contempt proceeding if the information is not supplied.
Amazon asserts that its customers have a reasonable expectation that Amazon will comply with the Privacy Notice on its website and will not disclose the details of its customer’s purchases. Amazon believes that disclosing this information will make customers less likely to purchase books, movies, music or other items that might be personal, sensitive, or controversial, which Amazon states will cause it real and tangible harm. Further, since the First Amendment protects the right to distribute, sell, purchase, and receive lawful expressive materials free from government scrutiny, Amazon alleges that the DOR’s request for Amazon to disclose the purchaser’s name and address violates this Amendment. Since the DOR has not made any showing of need or relevance to obtain customer data, the complaint states that the DOR’s interest in the data is not compelling enough to outweigh the harm the disclosure would cause to the First Amendment and privacy rights of Amazon and its customers. (Amazon.com, LLC v. Lay, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (Seattle), Case No, 2:10-CV-00664-BAT, filed April 19, 2010)
NOTE: Resolved. See updated news item at http://yettertax.com/search.php?newsId=1806