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Amazon wipes customer's Kindle, closes account

A blogger has told of how Amazon removed a customer's books and closed her account, then refused to give her an explanation.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
3 min read

(Credit: Amazon; CBSi)

A blogger has told of how Amazon removed a customer's books and closed her account, then refused to give her an explanation.

Amazon customer Linn, an avid reader and frequent traveller from her native country of Norway, was a bit perturbed when she found that her Kindle was wiped of all the books she had purchased and her account was locked, according to a blog post by her friend Martin Bekkelund. Since Amazon does not have a Norwegian site, Linn had an Amazon UK account — but when she contacted Amazon UK to find out what the story was, customer service representative Michael Murphy was less than helpful.

In response to her query, he wrote:

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.

Since Linn had never had another Amazon account, she wrote back — only to have the previous assertion restated, along with a refusal to provide any more information and a firm denial of any possibility of her account being reinstated.

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.

Thoroughly confused, Linn sent back one more query, only to receive this final reply:

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.

No explanation was given so that Linn could attempt to resolve the issue — in fact, Amazon, as you have seen, shut that possibility down before it could even be opened.

This is not the first time that Amazon has been involved with deletion shenanigans. There was the famed incident where an ebook copy of George Orwell's 1984 was deleted from users' devices without warning, and the web giant has also removed ebooks from its store as a form of blackmail when publishers didn't want to play by Amazon's rules.

These are the kinds of incidents that, as customers, makes us wary of DRM — and reinforce the notion that when you buy an ebook, you are not purchasing a copy of the book, but the ability to read it for a while — until the retailer decides that you're doing something wrong, whether you are or not, and revokes the item you paid for.

This is not an unfair assessment; Amazon's Terms of Use even state:

Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the content provider.

This story has an OK resolution; Linn had her account reinstated after Bekkelund's blog post went viral, and was able to access her account and re-download her ebooks, according to Computerworld UK. However, Amazon still hasn't ponied up an explanation, and, in fact, denied that a Michael Murphy even works on its customer-service team.

When a store is the size of Amazon, a few mistakes here and there are to be expected, but the absence of an explanation or apology is unacceptable.