Antitrust Law Daily Bezos testimony sought in House Judiciary Committee antitrust probe of Amazon
Friday, May 1, 2020

Bezos testimony sought in House Judiciary Committee antitrust probe of Amazon

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Reports contend that Amazon misled Congress about company’s dealings with third-party sellers.

As part of an antitrust investigation into Amazon's business practices, the House Judiciary Committee is calling on Jeff Bezos, the company's CEO and founder, to appear before the committee to testify. The call follows news, including an April 23 Wall Street Journal report, that Amazon employees used sensitive business information from third-party sellers on its platform to develop competing products. This practice apparently contradicted testimony by Amazon's associate general counsel, Nate Sutton, at a July 2019 House antitrust subcommittee hearing. Amazon has denied the suggestion that the company misled Congress, but it is investigating.

Last July, representatives from Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple appeared before the subcommittee to discuss competition in the tech sector. The hearing was the second in a series on the topic of online platforms and market power. At the hearing, Sutton faced tough questioning about Amazon’s treatment of its sellers. In a prepared statement to the subcommittee, Sutton said that "Amazon has innovated and invested heavily to help third-party sellers succeed."

According to the May 1 letter to Bezos, it has been reported that former Amazon employees used the data of rivals for its private label business. The letter suggests that the reports of the challenged conduct are bolstered by a European Commission investigation into Amazon. It notes a preliminary EC finding that "Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information – about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace."

The letter is signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Subcommittee Ranking Member F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Subcommittee Vice Chairman Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.), and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

In the event Bezos does not voluntarily appear, the lawmakers left open the option of resorting to compulsory process if necessary.

Companies: Amazon Inc.

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