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Amazon Flex drivers will start getting checks for $60 million in withheld tips

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The company settled with the FTC following a lawsuit earlier this year

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Federal Trade Commission will send out more than $60 million to drivers for Amazon’s Flex program, representing tip money that the commission says was illegally withheld.

According to the official announcement, the FTC is preparing 139,501 checks and 1,621 PayPal payments to drivers who had more than $5 in withheld tips. The highest back payout going to a single driver is more than $28,000, while the average repayment is $422. Nearly 20,000 drivers will receive checks for more than $600, the FTC said.

Drivers are expected to receive their tips before January 7th, 2022.

Earlier this year, the FTC sued Amazon for withholding tips in its Flex program between the years 2016 and 2019. Amazon continued to collect portions of the drivers’ tips up until the government filed its lawsuit outlining the alleged illegal behavior in 2019, according to the FTC’s investigation.

“Rather than passing along 100 percent of customers’ tips to drivers, as it had promised to do, Amazon used the money itself,” said Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in February.

In February, Amazon agreed to settle the case and surrender all of the tip money, totaling more than $60 million, to the FTC. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge on Thursday.

Amazon Flex contracts with individual drivers to deliver packages in their own vehicles, primarily delivering Prime Now and Amazon Fresh goods. In its February lawsuit, the FTC said that customers and drivers were told by Amazon that the drivers would receive 100 percent of any tips paid. This practice ended in 2016 after Amazon allegedly lowered the minimum hourly pay for drivers and made up the difference with their tip money. The FTC said drivers were not notified of this change.