Amazon's terms of service grants it basically god-like authority over its domain, but we all buy in because we believe that the company will be benevolent with its power. That's not always the case. Here's the story of a user whose account was deleted and her Kindle wiped with no explanation whatsoever.
Tech blogger Martin Bekkelund reports the unfortunate saga of his friend "Linn." Linn claims she received an email from a character named Michael Murphy representing Executive Customer Relations for Amazon.co.uk. Murphy said Linn's account had been removed because it was related to another account, which had been deleted for abusing Amazon policies. The email ended with recitation of Amazon's rights:
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.
Linn had no idea what Michael Murphy was talking about and responded asking for more details. Mr. Murphy's follow up was cryptic and contained nothing new.
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.
So in other words, Linn's account was irrevocably gone, and there was nothing she could do to find out why. Besides essentially blocking Linn from the Amazon's huge retail marketplace forever, Amazon also revoked access to the many books she had on her Kindle. Remember, just because you've spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on ebooks for your Kindle, you don't really own any of them. Thanks Amazon's DRM, the company can take your purchases away whenever it feels like it.
We called and emailed Amazon to find out if the story is true—and how it's even possible that an innocent user could get caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare like this without recourse. We'll update when we hear back. [Martin Bekkelund]
Amazon who provided at least a partial answer to our questions:
We posted the following message to our customer forum:
"We would like to clarify our policy on this topic. Account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help. Thank you for your interest in Kindle."
In other words, Linn, above, should not have had her Kindle wiped by Amazon just because her account was terminated. That said, this provides no explanation for why her account might have been terminated, or what she can do to find out. We've asked for clarification on this point.