Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told members of Congress on Wednesday that his company might have violated its policy against using data from marketplace sellers to boost Amazon’s own sales.
“What I can tell you is we have a policy against using seller-specific data to aid our private label business,” he said. “But I can’t guarantee you that policy has never been violated.”
The testimony came during a hearing before a U.S. House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee — the first time Bezos testified before Congress. He and leaders of Facebook, Google and Amazon faced questions from members of Congress concerned about the power of so-called Big Tech.
“These companies, as they exist today, all have monopoly power,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island. “Some need to be broken up.”
Bezos faces numerous questions about Amazon’s marketplace operations.
“Many small business uses words like bullying, fear and panic when describing Amazon,” said Rep. Lucy Kay McBath, a Democrat from Georgia, accusing Amazon of wielding monopoly power via is marketplace operations.
“I reject the premise,” Bezos said. He defended how the Amazon marketplace serves small- and medium-sized businesses — indeed, in the days before the hearing, Amazon released data that showed those SMBs sold more than 3.4 billion products on Amazon in the 12 months ending May 31, a 26% increase from the previous year.
Cicilline criticized Bezos for sales of counterfeit goods via the Amazon marketplace. “Why aren’t you more aggressive in removing counterfeit goods?” he asked.
“We do a lot to prevent counterfeiting,” Bezos said, adding Amazon has more than 1,000 employees focused on that work, and that the company has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the effort.
Even so, pressure is building on Amazon to do more.
Earlier this week, the Retail Industry Leaders Association came out in favor of proposed legislation called the INFORM Consumers Act, which was recently introduced today by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and would, according to the trade group, “require common-sense disclosures and accountability from big tech platforms like Amazon.com who increasingly sell products from third party sellers on their websites. The bill is designed to provide consumers with greater transparency by requiring online marketplaces to simply verify a seller’s information and for the seller to provide contact information to consumers.”