Members of the bipartisan House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee are alleging that former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and other bosses at the online retail monster may have lied to them when they testified that the company doesn’t steal ideas from smaller vendors and unfairly promote its own brands at their expense. The members say they’re giving Bezos and his associates one last chance to come clean.
Citing reports from Reuters and The Markup accusing Amazon of copying products and rigging search results in India to advance its own products, as well as pulling similar shenanigans stateside, the committee members sent a letter to current CEO Andy Jassy on Monday inviting him to set the record straight and provide “exculpatory evidence,” in case his people let the truth elude them when they testified.
As ABC 7 reports, the letter—signed by Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler (NY), David N. Cicilline (RI) and Pramila Jayapal (WA), as well as Republicans Matt Gaetz (FL), and Ken Buck (CO)—warns, “At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the Committee. At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.”
The note continues, “In light of the serious nature of this matter, we are providing you with a final opportunity to provide exculpatory evidence to corroborate the prior testimony and statements on behalf of Amazon to the Committee. We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity… as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate.”
The lawmakers are finding it particularly hard to swallow testimony given on July 16, 2019 by Amazon Associate Counsel General Nate Sutton, when he swore under oath that the company does “not use any seller data for—to compete with them” and that Amazon doesn’t “use any of that specific data in creating our own private brand products.” Additionally, Sutton testified that Amazon’s search rankings aren’t fixed to give their own stuff a boost.
The group also took issue with Bezos’s own testimony from July, 2020 in which the pretend astronaut claimed that Amazon doesn’t use seller-specific data to develop competing products, but looks at an “aggregate” of seller data to do that.
An Amazon rep contends that the reports are “inaccurate,” and that the legislators don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to how Amazon works.
“Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record on the inaccurate media articles in question,” the spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Monday. “As we have previously stated, we have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer’s policy that we’re aware of, that prohibits the use of individual seller data to develop Amazon private label products.”
Responding to The Markup, Amazon insisted, “We do not favor our store brand products through search. There is a difference between search results and the placements [the Markup] is referring to—’Featured from our brands’—which are merchandising placements…. these placements are clearly labeled to distinguish them from search results. These merchandising placements are optimized for a customer’s experience and are shown based on a variety of signals, starting with relevance to the customer’s shopping query.”
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