Amazon Asked to Clarify Business Practices Amid Push to Stop Big Tech's 'Product Boosting'

Five House Judiciary Committee members are urging Amazon to clarify its business practices amid reports that the company may have lied to Congress about boosting its own product lines—a practice that lawmakers are aiming to stop with a new bill to prevent Big Tech from favoring its brands.

In a Sunday letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the committee members accused the company of possibly lying during previous congressional testimonies about taking steps to favor its own private-label product lines over others on the platform.

The letter came after a Reuters investigation last week found that the company had conducted a campaign of copying products and rigging search results to boost sales of Amazon products in India, according to the news outlet.

The letter says there is "credible reporting" in the Reuters story and from other news outlets that "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 says, according to Reuters.

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testified last year before the Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, saying that the company does not allow its employees to use seller data to boost the sales of its own product lines, Reuters reported. In a separate hearing in 2019, Amazon Associate General Counsel Nate Sutton said the company does not use such data to bias its search results.

The lawmakers' letter on Sunday said Amazon now has "a final opportunity" to provide evidence to clarify its business practices and support its claim that it does not favor its own products. It gives Jassy until November 1 to provide a sworn response to clarify "how Amazon uses non-public individual seller data to develop and market its own line of products."

"We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity to correct the record and provide the Committee with sworn, truthful, and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate," the letter states, according to Reuters.

In response, a spokesperson for Amazon told Newsweek that "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."

"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," the statement added.

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Lawmakers are urging Amazon to clarify its business practices amid reports that the company engages in efforts to boost its own products over others. Above, the Amazon distribution center in Augny, France. SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday's letter was signed by a bipartisan group of legislators and included the committee's Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler, and four members of the antitrust subcommittee: Democratic Chair David Cicilline, Democratic Vice Chair Pramila Jayapal, and Republicans Ken Buck and Matt Gaetz.

The letter comes just days after a bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. It aims to prevent Big Tech platforms from requiring vendors on their sites to purchase their goods or services, or from biasing their search results to favor their own products.

"As dominant digital platforms—some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen—increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed in the digital marketplace," Klobuchar said in a statement.