Bipartisan group of US lawmakers urge DoJ investigation of Amazon, alleging potential criminal obstruction of Congress committee
Amazon is in the crosshairs of a bipartisan group of US lawmakers, who allege the e-commerce giant mislead the US Congress over its business practices.
The lawmakers have sent a letter to the Justice Department on Wednesday, urging it to open an investigation into Amazon and its executives for alleged criminal obstruction of Congress, CNBC reported.
The group alleges that Amazon has “engaged in a pattern and practice of misleading conduct” in response to lawmakers’ questions about its private-label practices and its collection of third-party seller data.
The letter from a House Committee alerted the DoJ to “potentially criminal conduct by Amazon and certain of its executives.
The letter was addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, and was signed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, House Antitrust Subcommittee chair David Cicilline, and committee members Reps. Ken Buck, Matt Gaetz, and Pramila Jayapal.
In the 24 page letter, they alleged that Amazon repeatedly misled the House Judiciary Committee throughout a 16-month probe into the competitive practices of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.
CNBC reported that the lawmakers zeroed in on Amazon’s private-label practices and its collection of third-party seller data.
They allege Amazon has made false and misleading statements to the House Committee about its practices, then refused to turn over evidence that would “either corroborate its claims or correct the record.”
“It appears to have done so to conceal the truth about its use of third-party sellers’ data to advantage its private-label business and its preferencing of private-label products in search results – subjects of the Committee’s investigation,” the letter alleges.
“As a result, we have no choice but to refer this matter to the Department of Justice to investigate whether Amazon and its executives obstructed Congress in violation of applicable federal law,” the letter continued.
But Amazon has not taken kindly to the allegations made by the US lawmakers.
“There’s no factual basis for this, as demonstrated in the huge volume of information we’ve provided over several years of good faith cooperation with this investigation,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement.
Amazon executives reportedly defended the company’s business practices in a series of hearings during the investigation.
An Amazon official reportedly testified in July 2019 that the company does not use individual seller data to inform its strategy but maintained that it does use aggregated data.
During testimony in July 2020, Amazon founder and then-CEO Jeff Bezos said the company has a policy that safeguards seller data from employee access, but he couldn’t guarantee the policy had never been violated.
It should be noted that US lawmakers have previously accused Amazon of allegedly lying to US Congress during the hearings.
Amazon for its part has previously denied the company and its executives misled the committee.