Several members of Congress are criticizing Amazon following a recent report that it used data about third-party sellers to develop its own competing products.
The Wall Street Journal earlier this week reported that employees said they looked at data about products before deciding how to price Amazon’s own version—known as private label—or deciding what features to copy.
As the Journal noted, Amazon told Congress last year that it did not use individual seller data to compete with third-parties selling on their massive retail platform.
Amazon told the newspaper that it prohibits using non-public data to determine what products it would launch and was starting an internal investigation.
But now lawmakers want to push Amazon for more information—with some suggesting that the retail giant may have lied to Congress.
“At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, tweeted. “At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress.”
Cicilline was the congressperson who originally pressed Amazon on the matter, asking in July: “You collect all this data about the most-popular products, where they’re selling, and you’re saying you don’t use that in any way to change an algorithm to support the sale of Amazon branded products?”
To which Amazon’s associate general counsel, Nate Sutton, said they did not.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who was critical of Amazon and other big tech companies during her 2020 presidential campaign, told Politico the Journal report only solidified her opinion that big tech needed to be broken up.
“This is exactly what happens when you let a giant company be both the umpire and a player in the game,” Warren told Politico. “Amazon needs to explain why it misled Congress—and we need to break up Amazon and big tech.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Journal on Thursday that his committee planned to “seek clarification from Amazon in short order.”
*First Published: Apr 24, 2020, 11:40 am
Andrew Wyrich is a politics and technology staff writer for the Daily Dot. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).