Lawmakers Seek New Investigation Into Amazon

Lawmakers Seek New Investigation Into Amazon

( – The online retail giant Amazon is no stranger to finding itself mired in controversy. Recently, the company has come under fire again for allegedly providing false or misleading comments to Congress, according to several lawmakers on the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee. At the heart of the issue is whether or not Amazon used its third-party seller data to create competing products and then placed its own products ahead of its sellers on the platform, thereby violating antitrust laws and using the data to increase its profits.

Letter to DOJ

On Wednesday, March 9, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, alerting the DOJ to the potential of Amazon engaging in criminal activity. The letter, signed by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Ken Buck (R-CO), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), references a prior investigation where an unnamed senior executive testified Amazon does not use the data it collects on its third-party sellers as a means to compete with them. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that the senior executive’s testimony was allegedly false.

While Amazon claims to have restrictions in place to prevent private-label employees from accessing third-party seller data, employees insist it happened anyway. In fact, they point to several occasions where they used this data, skirting the restrictions, and openly discussed how to create these products in company meetings. To make matters worse, they claim executives had access to proprietary information to determine which products to produce based on what was a hot seller. The committee alleged it uncovered similar evidence in its investigation.

Amazon insists none of this is true, saying there’s “no factual basis” for the allegations and that the “huge volume of information” it’s provided over the years speaks to this.

American Innovation and Choice Online Act

Last year, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act was introduced in the Senate to help curb discriminatory behavior allowing companies like Amazon, Meta, Alphabet and Apple to place their own products above others in the market. The bill sought to create codified boundaries with consequences for violations, including civil fines and injunctions. As of March 2, 2022, the Senate placed the proposal on its legislative calendar.

The lawmakers also made a criminal referral regarding Amazon’s practices to the DOJ, requesting a formal investigation. The DOJ acknowledged it received and will review the letter.

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