Congress calls Jeff Bezos to testify about Amazon's use of seller data
posted Saturday May 2, 2020 by Scott Ertz
Last year, as part of its inquiry into the way big tech companies use their market positions to compete with those who rely on these companies, Amazon representatives were asked about their use of data. In particular, Nate Sutton, Amazon's Associate General Counsel was asked about the company's use of seller data on its platform to determine its own product offerings. Mr. Sutton said that Amazon does not use information about its sellers to compete against them. Those words are at the center of a new controversy for the company.
Following a Wall Street Journal report, a bipartisan House panel has requested that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos appear before the panel to answer questions. Those questions, once again, revolve around Amazon's use of seller data to build its own product line. The report, which cites conversations with more than 20 previous employees in the private label division of the company, states that Amazon regularly uses data about sellers on the platform to plan its product moves.
One example cited is a trunk organizer. Employees were urged to research the top seller in the category on the platform, including which features were most important to customers, the best price at which the product sold, and what Amazon's profit was for hosting the product. After this research, Amazon launched its own branded trunk organizer, based on the research conducted.
Congress does not generally appreciate being lied to, which is probably why the concept of perjury exists. If there was any question about whether that's how they feel here, their letter to Bezos makes their feelings clear. They expect that Bezos will appear in front of the panel voluntarily, but are prepared to subpoena him if necessary. If it turns out that the company lied to Congress last year, there could be big problems for the company in the future. The company, however, has continued to insist that they do not use competitor data to develop their own products and take the accusations seriously.