Five members of the US House Judiciary Committee wrote to Amazon’s CEO. They accused the company’s top executives, including founder Jeff Bezos, of either misleading Congress or possibly lying to it about Amazon’s business practices.
The letter also states that the committee is considering “whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate.”
Addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the letter followed a Reuters investigation last week that showed that the company had conducted a systematic campaign of copying products and rigging search results in India to boost sales of its own brands — practices Amazon has denied engaging. Jassy, a longtime Amazon executive, succeeded Bezos in July.
Reuters Investigates team poured through thousands of internal Amazon India documents and uncovered a plan designed to identify successful “reference” and “benchmark” products from other retailers, then leverage proprietary data to create its in-house offerings.
In 2019 Nate Sutton, associate general counsel at Amazon, said the data it collects is used to drive consumers to the correct item or best deal regardless of who the seller is.
However, the documents that Reuters exposed directly contradict this statement showing Amazon India’s manipulation of results for its benefit.
A 2016 strategy report showed that the India private-brands team rigged the system so that the first two to three search results would return in-house products.
Other parts of the plan encouraged the manipulation of Amazon India’s website algorithms and data to ensure its products would appear in search results more frequently.
US lawmakers protest more than Indians
The letter states that “credible reporting” in the Reuters story and recent articles in several other news outlets “directly contradicts the sworn testimony and representations of Amazon’s top executives — including former CEO Jeffrey Bezos.”
“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 letter states.
In response, an Amazon spokesperson issued a statement that said: “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.
It added: “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. We investigate any allegations that this policy may have been violated and take appropriate action.”
Since 2019, the House Judiciary Committee has been investigating competition in digital markets, including how Amazon uses proprietary seller data from its platform and whether the company unfairly favors its products.
The Indians are up in arms too
Confederation of All India Traders (CAT) told Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal that American lawmakers have announced to present a bill.
In contrast, in India, not only the government but all the political parties, responsible government agencies are silent, which has generated a lot of anger and resentment among the country’s traders.
It has announced a country-wide protest from November 15 in all the country’s states, protesting against the abuse of dominance and other malpractices continued by Amazon and other foreign-funded companies in India.