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Digital Markets: Congress indicts Amazon for alleged infractions, false testimony

Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

*The US lawmakers are threatening to involve the Justice Department to begin a criminal probe of the Big Tech and e-commerce giant Amazon, following a recent investigation, suggesting its involvement in infractions to knock off the competition and boost its own product lines in cyberspace

*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’ ─Spokesperson

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

For purportedly flouting extant criminal law on market regulations by providing misleading or outright false testimony about its operations to the legislators, several members of the United States (US) House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, in the Congress, have written to Amazon’s Legal Department, stating that the global technology and e-commerce giant, including its Founder Jeff Bezos, “misled or lied to Congress.”

The letter apparently stated that the committee is considering “whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate,” agency report said.

The United States Congress

It was gathered that the letter came against the backdrop of a Reuters’ recent investigation, suggesting that the Big Tech ran a “systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India.”

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The letter stated that “credible reporting” in the publication and recent articles in several other news outlets “directly contradict the sworn testimony and representations of Amazon’s top executives – including former CEO Jeffrey Bezos.”

How lawmakers accused tech giant of misleading House Committee

The House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress has been taking a long look into the competitive battlefield in digital markets, including how Amazon uses its proprietary seller data, and whether it unfairly gives its own products an advantage when a Web site visitor searches for a certain product.

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The letter stated in part: “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.”

We didn’t mislead the House Committee on company’s operations, says Amazon

However, an Amazon spokesperson responded to the weighty allegation in a statement 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.”

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The company also said: “We investigate any allegations that this policy may have been violated and take appropriate action.”

Congress insists the e-Commerce giant must respond by November 1

As market players anticipate how things pan out regarding the alleged infractions against the company in the digital ecosystem, the congressional letter also gives Andy Jassy, the newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, one last chance to submit evidence that will verify statements and testimony the company gave the American legislators earlier.

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Perhaps in a bit of a threat, report indicates the letter reminds Amazon that “it is criminally illegal to knowingly and willfully make statements that are materially false, conceal a material fact, or otherwise provide false documentation in response to a congressional investigation.”

Now, the clocking is ticking fast as the US Congress has only given Amazon’s new CEO Jassy till November 1, 2021, to explain how the online retail giant uses non-public individual seller data to develop and market its own line of products to the detriment of the competition.

The Congress as well desires to know why Amazon’s search rankings seem to favour its own products when a consumer searches for them on the Internet, report stated.

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