Amazon.com LLC (“Amazon”) has prevailed in its highly-publicized court challenge to a demand by the North Carolina Department of Revenue for information regarding purchases made by Amazon’s North Carolina customers during the period August 1, 2003 to February 28, 2010. The Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington (where Amazon is headquartered) issued a ruling on October 25, 2010, in Amazon.com LLC v. Kenneth R. Lay, in his capacity as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Revenue, Case No. C10-664 MJP. The ruling enjoins the North Carolina DOR from requiring that Amazon provide the Department with names and addresses of its North Carolina customers and details regarding the products they purchased from Amazon.
The Department, in connection with an investigation of Amazon’s possible liability for uncollected use tax on sales to North Carolina residents, had requested that Amazon provide it “all information for all sales to customers with a North Carolina shipping address” for the six-and-a-half year period under examination. Amazon provided the DOR detailed records of products shipped to North Carolina for the entire period, but refused to provide the names or personal information of its customers purchasing such products. When the Department pressed for the information, Amazon sued in federal court, asserting that the Department’s request violated the First Amendment by chilling the exercise of the freedom of speech of Amazon’s customers (and of Amazon itself). On October 25, the Court agreed.