Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos could be the next Silicon Valley executive to get grilled by lawmakers.
The Seattle-based retail giant, which has been criticized for its treatment of workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, was recently the subject of a Wall Street Journal investigation revealing that its employees used independent sellers’ data to create competing products on the platform — in violation of its policies and past statements.
“If true, these allegations contradict previous testimony and written responses that Amazon submitted to the [House Judiciary] Committee,” reads a letter to Bezos signed by seven members of Congress that was released Friday. “[…] If the reporting in the Wall Street Journal article is accurate, then statements Amazon made to the Committee about the company’s business practices appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious.”
The retail giant has long claimed that it does not use proprietary data collected from the site’s third-party sellers in order to produce and sell its own products.
However, according to interviews with more than 20 former employees of the tech company’s private-label business and documents reviewed by the Journal, the company did do that. This type of information is very useful, as it can help Amazon figure out how to price something, what features of an item to copy or whether it’s worth entering a product segment based on consumer interest, sources explained to the newspaper.
“In light of our ongoing investigation, recent public reporting and Amazon’s prior testimony before the Committee, we expect you, as Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, to testify before the Committee,” the lawmakers – including Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.; Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., write in the letter.
A spokesperson for Amazon provided Fox News with the following statement regarding the Journal’s allegations:
“As we told The Wall Street Journal and explained in our testimony, we strictly prohibit employees from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch. While we don’t believe these claims made by the Journal are accurate, we take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation.”
In addition, the company’s spokesperson pointed out that common practices among other retailers with extensive private brand offerings include knowing the sales volume for products in their stores. The company also pointed out that third-party sellers now account for 58 percent of sales on the platform.
The lawmakers also referenced Amazon’s lack of cooperation with Congress’ antitrust probe of the company.
“Last September we requested documents and communications related to Amazon’s relationship with sellers, including Amazon’s use of third-party sellers’ data,” the letter reads. “Amazon has not made an adequate production in response to this request, and — seven months after the original request — significant gaps remain.”
Fox News reached out to Amazon for comment on this new letter from lawmakers.