US House Panel Calls on Amazon’s Bezos to Testify on Third-Party Sellers

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The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Friday called on Chief Executive and founder Jeff Bezos to testify to the panel about allegations that the online retailer uses data from its own third-party sellers to create competing products.

In a letter to Bezos signed by Democratic and Republican members of the panel, the lawmakers referred to an April 23 Wall Street Journal story about Amazon, saying, “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.”

At issue are statements by Amazon’s associate general counsel, Nate Sutton, who denied under oath last July that Amazon used sensitive business information from independent sellers on its platform to develop products for Amazon to sell.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Amazon did indeed use the data, citing former employees.

A spokesman for Amazon said the company had no immediate comment. The company has previously said that any such practices would violate its policies.

In the letter, the lawmakers raised the possibility of a subpoena.

“We expect you, as Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, to testify before the Committee,” it said. “Although we expect that you will testify on a voluntary basis, we reserve the right to resort to compulsory process if necessary.”

The European Commission has also opened a probe into the practice of Amazon using data from its merchants to compete.

The committee also said in the letter that Amazon had balked at providing information about independent merchants.

The letter was signed by Representatives Jerrold Nadler, chair of the Judiciary Committee; David Cicilline, chair of the antitrust subcommittee, Joe Neguse and Pramila Jayapal, all of whom are Democrats.

It was also signed by Republican Representatives James Sensenbrenner, Ken Buck and Matt Gaetz.

Russell Dye, a spokesman for the top Republican on the committee, Representative Jim Jordan, took issue with the letter.

“We wonder what Judiciary Democrats’ true motivations are. Earlier this year, they said companies like Amazon should not exist and should be broken up simply because they are large successful businesses,” he said.

In addition to the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are probing the big tech companies. Dozens of state attorneys general are also investigating Alphabet’s Google and Facebook .

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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