Jeff Bezos. REUTERS/KATHERINE TAYLOR
Jeff Bezos. REUTERS/KATHERINE TAYLOR

US House legislators said top Amazon.com executives, including former CEO Jeff Bezos, misled Congress about how the online retailer uses data from third-party sellers.

In the letter Monday to CEO Andy Jassy, the legislators — led by judiciary committee chair Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, and antitrust subcommittee chair David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat — cited “recent, credible reporting that directly contradicts the sworn testimony and representations of Amazon’s top executives” to the panel. 

“In light of the serious nature of this matter, we are providing you with a final opportunity to provide exculpatory evidence to corroborate the prior testimony and statements on behalf of Amazon to the committee,” the legislators wrote in the letter, dated Monday. “We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity to correct the record and provide the committee with sworn, truthful, and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the department of justice for criminal investigation is appropriate.”

Amazon representatives, including Bezos, have told Congress that they have a policy against using individual seller data to compete against those sellers or craft rival products. But a series of media accounts suggested that Amazon employees have done just that, or at least found workarounds that render the policy useless.

Bezos, asked under oath in 2020 about a Wall Street Journal report that Amazon had regularly used such data in apparent violation of the policy, said he couldn’t guarantee that the rule had never been violated.

In a statement in response to the letter, Amazon spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said the company investigated all such allegations and took “appropriate action”.

“In addition, we design our search experience to feature the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon or one of our selling partners,” she said. 

Comments from Bezos and others run counter to recent news reports, the legislators said. 

“At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the committee,” the legislators wrote. “At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.”

Colorado’s Ken Buck, the ranking Republican on the antitrust panel also signed the letter, along with Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, and representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican. The legislators are demanding a response by November 1.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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