Amazon executives, including the retailer’s founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, are being accused of lying to the US Congress in testimony given in 2019, when they were called on to explain the use of vendor data. In a letter, Democratic and Republican congressmen point out that, at worst, members of the company’s leadership “have lied to Congress, violating a federal criminal law.”
The US Congress has been investigating Amazon’s role in the digital market since 2019. It was this year that politicians called former CEO Jeff Bezos to a hearing, with the aim of understanding how the retailer used internal data from its marketplace sellers, and whether she took advantage of this information.
Congress says Bezos may have committed a crime
Jeff Bezos told the antitrust subcommittee — part of the Congressional Judiciary Committee — that Amazon prohibits employees from using vendor data to manipulate survey results and benefit private-label products.
But an investigation of the Reuters points out that Amazon not only used vendor data and favored private label products in the site’s India search engine; she made blatant copies of products that sold well in the country, and classified the plagiarized products as “own line”.
Democratic and Republican congressmen sent current Amazon Executive Director Andy Jassy a letter on Monday (18). In the document, politicians accuse Bezos of deceiving the US Congress, or simply lying about his own company’s practices. The second option violates federal criminal law.
The letter warns that the US antitrust committee, which took Bezos’ testimony, is “considering the help of the Department of Justice in deciding whether there should be a proper criminal investigation.” She also mentions that the report of the Reuters and from other vehicles “directly contradicts the testimony and representation of Amazon’s top executives”.
Amazon CEO has “last chance” to redeem company
The other retailer executive who testified before the US Congress was Amazon general counsel Nate Sutton. Also in 2019, when asked by the antitrust subcommittee whether the company makes changes to the algorithm to promote its own products to customers, Sutton stated that “The algorithms are optimized to predict what the consumer wants to buy, no matter who sells the product.”
But if the note accuses the former CEO of having lied to the Amazon partner, it also gives the current head of the company a “last chance” to provide documents and other evidence that corroborate the testimony and claims made in 2019.
Congressmen explain in the letter that Andy Jassy has until Nov. 1 to officially respond on “how Amazon uses private, individual data from its vendors to create its own brands,” and how the company favors them in search results.
Finally, the congressmen state in the letter:
“We strongly advise that you [Andy Jassy] use this opportunity to correct what was said in the Committee with a true and accurate oath to this letter, as we are considering calling the Department of Justice, which must assess whether a criminal investigation into the case is appropriate.”
Amazon responds to congressional letter
In a statement, a company spokesman said that “Amazon and its executives did not deceive the Committee.” The company also says it is “seeking to correct inaccurate media articles.”
“As we previously stated, we have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer, that prohibits the use of data from individual sellers to develop Amazon’s own products. We investigate any allegations that this guideline has been violated and take appropriate action in those cases.”
The congressional letter to Amazon is yet another sign of a rift between American politics and the so-called big techs, which include companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet, the parent of Google. All have been facing lawsuits and handling antitrust investigations around the world — from the US to Japan.