Top US legislators have suggested that Amazon executives, including founder Jeff Bezos, may have deceived or lied to Congress about the company’s business practices.
House Judiciary Committee members stated that they were considering sending the business “for criminal inquiry.”
It comes after a Reuters investigation found that Amazon duplicated items and manipulated search results in India to increase sales of its own brands.
The claims are categorically denied by Amazon.
“Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee,” a spokesman said. “We have disputed and attempted to correct the record on the erroneous media items in question.”
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who took over from Jeff Bezos in July, received a letter from five members of the US House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
“Credible reporting” by Reuters and subsequent stories in other news outlets, they claimed, “clearly contradicts the sworn testimony and statements of Amazon’s senior officials, including former CEO Jeffrey Bezos.”
“This information, at most, indicates that Amazon’s officials lied to the Committee. At worst, it suggests that they may have lied to Congress, perhaps breaking federal law “According to the letter.
The Investigation Continues
The House Judiciary Committee has been looking into digital market competition since 2019, including how Amazon utilizes third-party seller data from its platform and if the firm favors its own items unfairly.
Mr Bezos claimed the company bans workers from utilizing data on individual sellers to enhance Amazon’s own-brand product lines in sworn evidence before the Judiciary Committee’s anti-trust subcommittee last year.
In a 2019 hearing, Amazon’s assistant general counsel, Nate Sutton, stated that the company never utilized such data to develop its own-branded goods or to manipulate search results for private advantage.
“Regardless of the vendor, the algorithms are optimized to anticipate what buyers want to buy,” he added.
These assertions were refuted by Reuters’ research, which was based on hundreds of pages of internal Amazon records leaked to the news agency.
According to the news agency, Amazon has a covert strategy of altering search results to favor Amazon’s own products and duplicating other vendors’ goods, at least in India.
According to Reuters, the strategy was known by at least two top corporate leaders.
Other recent reports in the Markup, the Wall Street Journal, and the Capitol Forum regarding Amazon’s private-brand items and usage of seller data are also cited in the legislators’ letter.
Mr. Jassy has been given until November 1 to present proof to back up his company’s prior testimony and claims.
Their letter further states that “knowingly and deliberately making materially false claims, concealing a significant fact, or otherwise providing false documents in answer to a congressional investigation is criminally unlawful.”
The letter says, “We highly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to rectify the record… while we assess whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal inquiry is warranted.”
An Amazon spokesman dismissed the accusations made by Reuters and other news organizations “factually inaccurate and unfounded” in a statement.
“As we’ve previously indicated, we have an internal policy that bans the use of individual seller data to build Amazon private label items, which goes beyond any other retailer’s policy that we’re aware of,” they continued.
“Any accusations that this policy has been violated are investigated and appropriate action is taken.”
Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet, among other large digital corporations, have come under increasing scrutiny in Washington, Europe, and other areas of the world.
Regulators are concerned that they have too much power and are using it to harm other firms.
A bipartisan group of legislators signed the letter, which included Democrats Jerrold Nadler, David Cicilline, and Pramila Jayapal, as well as Republicans Ken Buck and Matt Gaetz.
A trade organization representing thousands of brick-and-mortar stores in India asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action against Amazon on Monday.