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As apps make it easier to seek refunds, Amazon limits its reimbursement policy

Earny
Financial app Earny tries to generate revenue by taking advantage of price adjustments by retailers.
(Earny Inc.)

Many online retailers promise price protection to customers, but after making a purchase, few shoppers take the time to compare prices across the Web and file claims for partial refunds.

So a handful of start-ups have built business models that involve doing that legwork and taking a cut of the proceeds.

Their work, however, may become a little more difficult now that Amazon appears to be judging more strictly requests for price match refunds. 

In the past, shoppers — or companies working on their behalf — who bought from Amazon could seek reimbursement from the e-commerce giant’s customer service unit if the price fell soon after purchase.

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But now, Amazon will match prices only on televisions, and it describes previous payouts as an “exception,” not the rule, according to Recode and TechCrunch.

Amazon disputes the notion that this represents a policy change. “Our customers expect to come to Amazon and find the lowest prices,” spokeswoman Julie Law said in an email. “We are obsessed with maintaining that customer trust.”

But it’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by start-ups aiming to automate price-match reimbursements.

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The newly launched app Earny scans users’ email inboxes to check receipts from supported retailers, trawls the Internet looking for lower prices then files claims if needed. For its efforts, Earny takes a 25% cut of the refund — the same ratio as its competitor, Paribus.

Earny, a Santa Monica company that raised $1 million in funding, said it noticed a shift in Amazon’s policy earlier this month — just two days after its app debuted. That’s when Amazon began rejecting claims it filed on behalf of customers.

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About 30% of the app’s business comes from Amazon, said Oded Vakrat, chief executive of Earny.

Vakrat said the app is working on expanding its network of supported retailers. It currently works with chains such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Nordstrom Inc., and also can file price-match refunds claims through credit card price protection policies, he said.

“It’s not hurt us,” Vakrat said in reference to the Amazon policy. “It’s just one change. It’s a great opportunity to show the world the importance of the post-purchase experience.”

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samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

For more business news, follow me @smasunaga


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