A Republican senator from Missouri wants the DOJ to pursue a criminal investigation into Amazon over its unauthorized use of third-party seller data.
The case against Amazon centers around an investigative report released by the Wall Street Journal earlier in the week. The Journal claims that Amazon employees used a treasure trove of proprietary data from third-party sellers. They do so to research and develop its own, Amazon-branded products. Reporters drew their conclusions from internal documents and interviews with over 20 employees from Amazon’s branded products division.
Probe Into Amazon
— LiveSquawk (@LiveSquawk) April 28, 2020
Just days after the Journal broke the story, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr. In it, Hawley urges Barr to open up a Justice Department investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Recent reports indicate that the eCommerce giant “engaged in predatory and exclusionary data practices to build and maintain a monopoly,” according to Hawley. Senator Hawley says the probe should focus on Amazon’s role as an online platform. The said platform also sells products in direct competition with its third-party sellers.
In his letter to Barr, Hawley wrote, “Amazon abuses its position as an online platform and collects detailed data about merchandise so Amazon can create copycat products under an Amazon brand. Internal documents and the testimony of more than 20 former Amazon employees support this finding”
After the report was released, Amazon quickly announced that it was launching an internal investigation into the matter. The company said any private use of third-party data to inform decisions in its private-label division would be a violation of company policy. Over the past few years, Amazon has been defending itself against a growing political push for an antitrust case against the company. The firm says it only accounts for 4% of U.S. retail sales. It also strictly adheres to all laws and regulations.
The Journal’s report raises concerns that the company may have misled Congress. Amazon appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee last July as part of a bipartisan antitrust investigation into Big Tech. Also, there are some indications that company representatives may have lied under oath. At the time, Amazon’s associate general counsel told the committee, “We don’t use individual seller data directly to compete.”
Looking For The Truth
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) April 24, 2020
That statement directly contradicts the recent reports, and it could land the company in some seriously hot water. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said he and his colleagues want answers. “This report raises deep concerns about Amazon’s apparent lack of candor before the committee regarding an issue that is central to our investigation,” Nadler said in a statement, “We plan to seek clarification from Amazon in short order.”
Senator Hawley is one of the leading opponents of Big Tech in D.C. During President Trump’s social media summit last year, Hawley blasted the tech industry’s questionable business practices and anti-conservative sentiments. President Trump praised the senator’s efforts and even invited on stage during the event.
President Trump isn’t a fan of Amazon. In the past, he’s been critical of the company’s tax practices and questioned the rates it pays the U.S. Postal Service for shipping. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, a publication well-known for its anti-conservative, anti-Trump sentiments. If the antitrust case against Amazon heats up, it’s not hard to imagine that Trump would enjoy seeing Bezos in the hot seat.
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