House panel threatens Amazon criminal investigation

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WASHINGTON (AP) – US lawmakers have threatened to call for a criminal investigation of Amazon, saying they are giving the tech giant a “last chance” to correct previous testimony from executives about its competition practices.


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  • U.S. House lawmakers have threatened to call for a criminal investigation of Amazon, saying they are giving the tech giant a “last chance” to correct previous testimony from executives about its competition practices.
  • The action, presented in a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, ​​marks an escalation in a bipartisan battle against Amazon led by the House Judiciary Committee panel that investigated market dominance by Big Tech.
  • The letter said the panel was considering sending the case back to the Justice Department for criminal investigation because it accused Amazon of at least misleading Congress and possibly lying outright.

The action, which came on Monday in a letter to Amazon President and CEO Andy Jassy, ​​marks an escalation in a bipartisan battle against Amazon by the House Judiciary Committee panel that investigated the dominance of the market by Big Tech. Lawmakers are giving Amazon until November 1 to “fix the record” and provide new documents and evidence.

The letter said the antitrust subcommittee was considering sending the case back to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation, as it accused Amazon of at least misleading Congress and possibly lying outright. The letter cites recent news articles detailing Amazon’s alleged practice of undermining companies selling on its platform by making “fakes” or very similar products, and bolstering their presence on the site.

The reports directly contradict sworn testimony from Amazon executives and other statements to Congress, the letter said. It was signed by the chairman of the judiciary committee, Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the antitrust panel.

“We strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to correct the case and provide the Committee with sworn, truthful and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate,” said the letter.

Jassy took over from Seattle-based Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in July.

Amazon has denied that its executives misled the panel in their testimony.

“Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record of the inaccurate news articles in question,” the company said in a statement. “As we have previously stated, we have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer policy of which we are aware, that prohibits the use of individual seller data to develop private label products. Amazon. ” ‘

Amazon said it investigates any allegations of violations of its policies and takes “appropriate action” when warranted. “Additionally, we design our research experience to showcase the items that customers will want to purchase, whether offered by Amazon or one of our business partners,” the statement said.

Already in May 2020 in a letter to Bezos, the subcommittee had threatened a subpoena if Bezos did not voluntarily agree to appear before the panel.

The Wall Street Journal then reported that Amazon was using sensitive and confidential information about sellers in its marketplace, their products and their transactions to develop its own competing products. An Amazon executive denied such practice in statements at a subcommittee hearing in July 2019, saying the company had a formal policy against it.

The letter to Bezos said the statements by Amazon attorney Nate Sutton appeared to be “misleading and possibly criminally false” or amounting to perjury.

Bezos testified on the matter during an appearance at a hearing in July 2020 into Big Tech’s alleged monopoly practices with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Responding to claims that Amazon used data generated by independent sellers on its platform to compete with them, Bezos said at the time that it would be “unacceptable” if those claims were true.

The panel’s new letter to Jassy also cites testimony from Sutton, who denied that the company used vendor data to compete with them or help create its own private label products. Sutton said the site’s algorithms were “optimized to predict what customers want to buy from whoever the seller is.”

One of the news articles cited in the letter quotes a former Amazon employee as saying, “I used to pull data from sellers to see what the best products were when I was there.”

The letter made it clear that the committee believed the media reports and not the testimony of Amazon officials. “Each of these investigative reports is inconsistent with the sworn testimony and the many statements made by Amazon executives,” he said.

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