University of Delaware student Amelia SanFilippo was charged $US3800 by Amazon. Picture: CBS Philly
University of Delaware student Amelia SanFilippo was charged $US3800 by Amazon. Picture: CBS Philly

Student’s outrageous $5400 fine

An angry father whose college student daughter copped a massive fine from Amazon has accused the online retail giant of "extortion".

The incident occurred earlier this year when University of Delaware student Amelia SanFilippo rented a second-hand textbook - Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age - through Amazon's textbook rental service using her father's bank account.

The book was due to be returned on June 24 - but just four days later, she received an alarming email.

"Your Amazon.com rental has been purchased," the email's subject line read.

"Your rental was due June 24, 2019. We have not received it and as a result we have charged you for the item and it is now yours to keep," the email read.

But instead of charging Ms SanFilippo $US100 ($A143) - which is how much it costs to buy - the 19-year-old was charged $3800.60 ($A5459.18).

The fine was more than 60 times the $US62.70 ($A90) price tag the cognitive science student originally paid to rent the book for four months.

The cash was automatically deducted from Ms SanFilippo's father Anthony SanFilippo's account.

Amelia SanFilippo was ‘shocked’ by the $US3800 fine. Picture: CBS Philly
Amelia SanFilippo was ‘shocked’ by the $US3800 fine. Picture: CBS Philly

He told news network CBS Philly the fee was outrageous.

"To ramp that up to $3800? That to me seems like extortion," he told the network.

"I think Amazon is taking advantage of college students, I do. I don't think they're alone.

"I think there are other companies that are probably doing the same thing."

Ms SanFilippo was eventually refunded the money - but only after a frustrating nine-hour call with customer service.

Ms San Filippo told The Philadelphia Inquirer she was "shocked" by the large fine.

"That's a big chunk of change, especially when the book is $100 to buy," she said.

Her father told the publication it was unfair to target vulnerable students with excessive fees and questioned what would happen if they were late to return multiple books or happened to have them stolen.

"What if it was more than one book that was late?" he asked.

"What if it was four, five, or six books. Would the tab be $20,000?"

In a statement sent to Business Insider, Amazon claimed the fee had been charged in error.

"This was an isolated error that we quickly resolved directly with the customer and have issued a refund," an Amazon spokesperson told the publication.

The service is popular with US students. Picture: CBS Philly
The service is popular with US students. Picture: CBS Philly

"We've apologised to the customer and are taking additional actions to ensure this situation does not happen again."

Amazon's Textbooks Store is popular with university students, allowing them to avoid "paying a small fortune" for new textbooks and to save by "buying cheap new and used textbooks and by renting textbooks for college".

According to its policy, if a textbook is "not received with a postmark of the due date or an earlier date" the rental period will automatically be extended by 15 days at an extra cost.

If the book is still not received with a postmark of the extension due date or an earlier date, Amazon will "charge you the purchase price (as of the time of rental) less any rental fees and, if applicable, extension fees already paid."

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au


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