March 30, 2016 Articles

How to Subpoena Amazon to Find an Online Seller's Income

By Sandra Starr Uretsky

The issuance of a subpoena can be the single most powerful tool in litigation. It allows you to cut out the middleman and obtain factual information directly from the source. In matrimonial litigation, subpoenas are often used to obtain a litigant’s financial information from banks and employers. When a litigant is self-employed, obtaining a true picture of their profits and cash flow can prove to be a very tedious endeavor.

In a recent case, my firm represented the wife of a man who derived much of his income from selling items on Amazon.com. After months and months of stonewalling and his continued refusal to answer discovery or even provide a single piece of paper relating to his business, it was time to ramp up the pressure.

This article will give the reader a simple step-by-step process to successfully obtain information from Amazon.com via subpoena practice.

Amazon.com will not provide any information in response to a duly executed authorization to release information. In my case, the husband did execute one, but Amazon.com would not honor it. Also, Amazon.com will accept service of a subpoena on neither a warehouse nor a registered agent (including their outside counsel). I tried. It was rejected. So, a properly issued subpoena, filed in the State of Washington, pursuant to the procedures of the Uniform Interstate Discovery and Depositions Act (UIDD), is necessary when you are dealing with Amazon.com.

Step 1: Prepare the subpoena and save it as a pdf. You will have to file the subpoena through the King County Superior Court Clerk’s website.

Practice Tip: If you have any credit card information relating to the individual whose information you are seeking, include that in the subpoena. According to Amazon’s outside counsel, that is the best way to locate a buyer or seller’s information. If you have a customer ID and/or email address for the individual, include that too.

Step 2: Click “eFile now” and create a user ID.

Step 3: Select “Start New Case(s)” from the dropdown menu on the right, then select “Other Complaints/Petitions.” There is a very detailed “Foreign Subpoena Instruction Sheet” that you can download at this point that will walk you through the rest of the e-filing procedure. There is a “Case Filing Fee” and a fee for each subpoena filed that you can pay via credit card.

Practice Tip: There is a quirky requirement that you also file the Foreign Subpoena Instruction Sheet. You will receive an email indicating that the instruction sheet has been “rejected.” That’s OK.

Step 4:  After you file the subpoena, you will be able to download and print a “Case Information Cover Sheet and Area Designation” with the Superior Court of Washington, King County.

Step 5: Serve the Case Information Cover Sheet and Area Designation together with your subpoena to Amazon:

Amazon.com, Inc.
Corporation Service Company
300 Deschutes Way SW, Suite 304
Tumwater, WA 98501
Attn: Legal Department – Subpoena

Step 6: You will receive correspondence from Amazon’s outside counsel confirming receipt of the subpoena and possibly enclosing general objections, which is not necessarily indicative that the subpoena will not be answered.

When you receive the responsive documents, you can expect to obtain information relating to the individual’s account(s), billing address(es), Order ID, Order Day, items purchased/sold, quantity purchased/sold, and the dollar amount per transaction. In my case, the information was sent to me electronically in an Excel spreadsheet.

On a final note: I found Amazon’s outside counsel to be very helpful in navigating my way around the process. She was very responsive to my phone calls emails. So, if you hit a roadblock, I would recommend simply reaching out to outside counsel for clarification.

Keywords: litigation, family law, collaborative divorce, collaborative law


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