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One of the Amazon.com ads in dispute.

Is 60% back truly 60% back when it’s in the form of an Amazon.com gift card, not cash?

That’s one of the disagreements between Amazon and the National Association of College Stores over the Internet retailer’s promotional claims about the terms of its college textbook sales and buyback program.

The NACS says a gift card doesn’t live up to the promise. It also argues that Amazon’s claims of up to 30% off new textbooks and up to 90% off used textbooks are vague (i.e., 30% and 90% off of what?) and unsubstantiated.

The association in March filed a private complaint against Amazon with the Better Business Bureau. It became public on Tuesday when Amazon filed a complaint of its own in U.S. District Court in Seattle, disputing the organization’s argument and seeking a declaratory judgment in its favor.

In its complaint, Amazon seeks to substantiate the claims — comparing its prices vs. the list prices of its top 20 best-selling college textbooks. It concludes that new versions of 16 of the titles were available for more than 30% off the list price, and used versions of 10 were available for more than 90% off the list price.

“The pricing and convenience of Amazon’s textbook program has been extremely popular with college students since it launched, and college students increasingly look to Amazon as their first and primary option for buying and selling textbooks,” says Amazon in its complaint. “The prices available from Amazon on new and used books are a direct competitive threat to NACS members and their continued ability to profit from the sale of textbooks at list price.”

Amazon’s suit acknowledges that it buys textbooks back in exchange for gift cards, not cash or check, but it doesn’t address the NACS argument the “60% back” claim is false as a result.

In a statement, the NACS says it filed the proceeding with the Better Business Bureau to “promote a level playing field by eliminating unsubstantiated advertising claims.”

Read the NACS complaint here: PDF, 12 pages; and the Amazon complaint here: PDF, 15 pages.

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