Jeff Bezos, president and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington DC's Milestone Celebration Dinner in Washington, US, on September 13 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS
Jeff Bezos, president and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington DC's Milestone Celebration Dinner in Washington, US, on September 13 2018. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS

Washington — Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said on Thursday that he was not worried about the potential for antitrust scrutiny of the company as it becomes an important economic force.

Speaking at a Washington business gathering, Bezos said it was normal to draw scrutiny but he did not anticipate any actions that would prevent the internet giant from innovating and growing.

"We are so inventive that whatever regulations are promulgated, [they] will not stop us from serving customers. Customers are still going to want low prices. They’re still going to want fast delivery. They’re still going to want a big selection," Bezos said in a Q&A session at a dinner hosted by the Economic Club of Washington.

He said it was unsurprising and even normal to face questions when a company such as Amazon becomes so big. "All big institutions of any kind are going to be and should be examined, scrutinised and inspected. We want to live in a society where people are worried about big institutions. That’s OK."

But Bezos said he did not see Amazon — which briefly hit $1-trillion in market value — as a monopoly, arguing that online sales still represent a small fraction of overall retail. "About 85% of sales are still in the physical world. So that’s where we face competition."

His comments come as US regulators open hearings on whether to revamp anti-trust enforcement to consider the dominance of digital giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Trump and low-lifes

At the same dinner, Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, warned that US President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media are dangerous for the country and that his attacks risk eroding protections and social norms important for democracy.

"It’s dangerous to demonise the media," Bezos said. "It’s dangerous to call the media low-lifes. It’s dangerous to say they are the enemy of the people." He added that "we live in a society where it’s not just the laws of the land that protect us ... it’s also the social norms that protect us. It works because we believe the words on that piece of paper."

Bezos said Trump and other public figures should expect public and media scrutiny, which he called "healthy". The comments appeared to be the first direct, public rebuke of Trump by Bezos, a frequent target of attacks by the president.

"I do defend the Washinton Post," he said. "I don’t feel the need to defend Amazon." But he paraphrased Washington Post editor Martin Baron as saying that "the administration may be at war with us, but we are not at war with the administration".

Despite his concerns with Trump, Bezos said that he was not overly concerned about the future of the news media. "We are so robust in [the US]. The media is going to be fine."

AFP

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