Amazon may have lied to Congress about its business practices, say 5 US lawmakers

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Five members of the U.S. House Judiciary committee wrote to Amazon.com Inc's main enforcement Sunday, and accused the company's apical executives, including laminitis Jeff Bezos, of either misleading Congress oregon perchance lying to it astir Amazon's concern practices.

The missive besides states that the committee is considering "whether a referral of this substance to the Department of Justice for transgression probe is appropriate."

Addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the missive followed a Reuters probe past week that showed that the institution had conducted a systematic run of copying products and rigging hunt results successful India to boost income of its ain brands - practices Amazon has denied engaging in. Jassy, a longtime Amazon executive, succeeded Bezos successful July.

The missive states that "credible reporting" successful the Reuters communicative and caller articles successful respective different quality outlets "directly contradicts the sworn grounds and representations of Amazon's apical executives – including erstwhile CEO Jeffrey Bezos."

"At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon's representatives misled the Committee. At worst, it demonstrates that they whitethorn person lied to Congress successful imaginable usurpation of national transgression law," the missive states. Reuters reviewed a transcript of the letter.

In response, an Amazon spokesperson issued a connection that said: "Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we person denied and sought to close the grounds connected the inaccurate media articles successful question."

It added: "As we person antecedently stated, we person an interior policy, which goes beyond that of immoderate different retailer's argumentation that we're alert of, that prohibits the usage of idiosyncratic seller information to make Amazon backstage statement products. We analyse immoderate allegations that this argumentation whitethorn person been violated and instrumentality due action."

Since 2019, the House Judiciary Committee has been investigating contention successful integer markets, including however Amazon uses proprietary seller information from its platform, and whether the institution unfairly favors its ain products.

In sworn grounds earlier the Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee past year, Bezos said the institution prohibits its employees from utilizing information connected idiosyncratic sellers to payment its ain private-label merchandise lines. In different proceeding successful 2019, Nate Sutton, Amazon's subordinate wide counsel, testified that the institution does not usage specified information to make its ain branded products oregon change its hunt results to payment them.

Asked during the 2019 legislature proceeding whether Amazon alters algorithms to nonstop consumers to its ain goods, Sutton replied: "The algorithms are optimized to foretell what customers privation to bargain careless of the seller."

The lawmakers' missive gives Jassy "a last opportunity" to supply grounds to corroborate the company's anterior grounds and statements. It besides notes that "it is criminally amerciable to knowingly and willfully marque statements that are materially false, conceal a worldly fact, oregon different supply mendacious documentation successful effect to a legislature investigation."

It gives the CEO until Nov. 1 to supply a sworn effect to clarify "how Amazon uses non-public idiosyncratic seller information to make and marketplace its ain enactment of products" and however Amazon's hunt rankings favour those products.

It besides requests copies of each documents mentioned successful the Oct. 13 Reuters investigation.

"We powerfully promote you to marque usage of this accidental to close the grounds and supply the Committee with sworn, truthful, and close responses to this petition arsenic we see whether a referral of this substance to the Department of Justice for transgression probe is appropriate," the missive states.

The Reuters probe was based connected thousands of pages of interior Amazon documents – including emails, strategy papers and concern plans. They showed that, astatine slightest successful India, Amazon had a formal, clandestine argumentation of manipulating hunt results to favour Amazon's ain products, arsenic good arsenic copying different sellers' goods – and that astatine slightest 2 elder institution executives had reviewed it.

In effect to the Reuters report, Amazon said, "We judge these claims are factually incorrect and unsubstantiated." The institution did not elaborate. The institution said the mode it displays hunt results doesn't favour private-brand products.

The lawmakers' missive besides cites different caller stories successful the Markup, the Wall Street Journal and the Capitol Forum astir Amazon's private-brand products and usage of seller data.

The letter's crisp wording ratchets up the rhetoric betwixt Washington and Big Tech. Companies including Amazon, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google person been nether increasing scrutiny successful Washington, Europe and different parts of the world, fueled by concerns among regulators, lawmakers and user groups that the firms person excessively overmuch powerfulness and are engaging successful unfair practices that wounded different businesses.

The lawmakers' missive was signed by a bipartisan group, and included the judiciary committee's chairman, Democrat Jerrold Nadler, and 4 members of the antitrust subcommittee – its chair, Democrat David Cicilline, vice seat Pramila Jayapal and Republicans Ken Buck and Matt Gaetz.

On Wednesday, pursuing work of the Reuters investigation, U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a salient professional of Amazon, called for breaking up the company. In India, a radical representing millions of brick-and-mortar retailers urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi's authorities to instrumentality enactment against Amazon.

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