On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee penned a bipartisan letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The letter calls on Bezos to testify following an April 24 Wall Street Journal report revealing how Amazon uses third-party seller data to create competing products. The investigation sourced information and data from nearly two dozen former and current Amazon employees with knowledge of the practice.
Bezos is meant to clarify July 2019 statements from Nate Sutton, Amazon’s associate general, denying the practice, which now “appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious.”
It’s been a long time coming — Amazon has publicly circled the drain on its anticompetitive practices lately — most aggressively within the last year. The company was a focal point in Senator and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s tech antitrust policy, one of the targets of a Department of Justice antitrust investigation and a subsequent warning about encroaching ramifications on data collection and privacy, and briefly axed third-party sellers’ access to FedEx during the holidays. And those are just the broad strokes for 2019.
This year, a coalition of unions appealed to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a slew of anti-competitive practices affecting several industries, third-party sellers were de-prioritized in search results, and the worst-kept secret in e-commerce got some fresh data from the source itself: Amazon is just copying and undercutting popular sellers’ products.
Following the WSJ report, Senator Josh Hawley urged Attorney General Willam Barr to open a specific investigation into Amazon. The report has also lit a new fire in the House Judiciary Committee’s own investigation and it's not pulling any punches in this letter: “Although we expect that you will testify on a voluntary basis, we reserve the right to resort to compulsory process if necessary.”