Amazon accused of lying to Congress about using third-party sellers' data

Firm allegedly used data related to independent sellers to help develop competing products. 

Amazon logo on a window

Congress is questioning if Amazon was misleading about its use of third-party seller data to develop products.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Amazon staff members claimed the company used insider data related to independent sellers to help develop its own competing products. 

The report states that, in one case, the company allegedly went so far as to analyze a third-party car-trunk organizer’s sales and profit margins to decide if launching a competing product was in its best interest.

The House Judiciary Committee has spent the last few months engaged in an antitrust investigation that includes Amazon and many other large tech companies. In July 2019, an Amazon lawyer told the subcommittee the company doesn't use individual seller data to compete with third-party sellers.

After this report, leading members of the subcommittee, Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and David Cicilline (D-RI), were steadfast in responding to Amazon’s latest transgressions. 

“It is deeply concerning that, beginning with the hearing last year, they may have misled Congress rather than be fully forthcoming on this matter, notwithstanding our repeated requests in this regard,” Nadler said in a statement shared to the House Judiciary Committee’s website.

“At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning,” Cicilline added. “At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress.”

Amazon responded to the lawmakers’ calls for clarification and announced it would launch an internal investigation to address these accusations. 

“It’s simply incorrect to say that Amazon was intentionally misleading in our testimony,” a company spokesperson told The Verge. “While we don’t believe these claims made by the Wall Street Journal are accurate, we take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation.”

The WSJ report is one of many controversies to have overshadowed Amazon recently. The company has also faced concern after the alleged mistreatment of workers led to strikes at a number of warehouse facilities.

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