SAN FRANCISCO – Leaders of a powerful US congressional panel committee are calling on Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to respond to claims that the e-commerce giant misled lawmakers about its business practices.
The chairman and other senior members of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Bezos on Thursday citing a news item published last week that said Amazon routinely exploits its access to data from third-party sellers on its platform to develop competing private-label products.
Amazon does not “use individual seller data to directly compete with them,” a company executive said last year during an appearance before the committee, but former and current employees told The Wall Street Journal that as one of them put it, “using such data was a common practice that was discussed openly in meetings.”
The committee announced in 2019 that it was undertaking an antitrust investigation of the firm led by the world’s richest person.
“If the reporting in the Wall Street Journal article is accurate, then statements Amazon made to the Committee about the company’s business practices appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious,” Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), antitrust subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.), subcommittee ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote in their missive to Bezos.
The Journal, in an account it said was based on interviews with a score of people and seeing internal company documents, reported that before deciding whether to launch a new product, Amazon takes advantage of its free access to data from third-party vendors to create a feasibility study.
In one instance, according to the story, Amazon studied data on sales of a car-trunk organizer before launching a competing item.
Amazon has been one of the few enterprises to benefit from lockdowns implemented to contain COVID-19, posting a 26 percent increase in sales in the first quarter compared with the same period of 2019.
But along with the sales bonanza, Amazon has reaped criticism from employees and politicians for failing to do enough to keep workers safe.
Late last month, Amazon began checking the temperature of employees reporting for work at its distribution centers across the US and now says that it is providing staff with masks and other personal protective equipment.
Yet Amazon employees were among the “thousands” – according to organizers – who took part Friday in a May-Day work stoppage affecting Bezos’ firm and its Whole Foods unit; Walmart; Target; FedEx and Instacart, among other companies providing essential goods and services under quarantine conditions.