Five members of Congress sent a letter Monday accusing Amazon of misleading the House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee. The members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, seek “exculpatory evidence” to “corroborate prior testimony” given on behalf of Amazon to the committee.
The conflict stems from two articles alleging information that is directly in conflict with previous statements Amazon representatives made to the subcommittee. The first was a Reuters article which accused Amazon of copying product information from third party sellers. The article alleged that Amazon would partner with manufacturers to develop very similar products, creating competition for the original third-party seller. This runs contrary to Amazon’s prior claim that the company “prohibits the use of non-public seller-specific data to inform development of private brand products.”
The second accusation stems from the same Reuters piece, as a well as from an article by Markup. The Markup article alleged that Amazon would also manipulate search preferences to place its own products ahead of similar products by third party companies. In other words, if two products were similar, Amazon’s product may appear before the other. Again, these accusations would run contrary to prior statements that the company “appl[ies] the same criteria whether you’re a third-party seller or Amazon . . . because we want customers to make the right purchase regardless of whether it’s a seller or Amazon.”
The combination of these two practices raises fundamental questions about market fairness. The letter, which tacitly threatens criminal culpability, made five key demands. Primarily, these include sworn statements clarifying prior comments, as well as the release of documentation related to the Reuters and Markup articles. The letter requests that demands are satisfied by November 1.