US Federal Trade Commission rejects Amazon argument that antitrust subpoenas are ‘overly broad and burdensome’
The US Federal Trade Commission has ruled that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and chief executive Andy Jassy must testify in an antitrust probe of the company’s Prime subscription programme, rejecting the company’s argument that the demands amounted to harassment.
“Amazon provides no reason why the Commission must accept anything less than all the relevant testimony it can obtain from these two witnesses,” said Commissioner Christine Wilson in a written order.
She said that while the company had not proven that the FTC’s schedule for the executives’ testimony would be unduly burdensome, the FTC would make concessions including allowing for more prep time before the testimony.
The FTC also agreed to modify some provisions of the subpoenas that it acknowledged appeared too broad.
The order sets a 20 January deadline for testimony by Bezos, Jassy and 15 other senior company executives who were subpoenaed earlier this year.
The FTC subpoenaed the two executives in June. Jassy took over from Bezos as Amazon’s chief executive in July of last year.
In a petition to the FTC filed last month the firm objected to the subpoenas of Bezos and Jassy, saying the agency had “identified no legitimate reason for needing their testimony when it can obtain the same information, and more, from other witnesses and documents”.
It said the FTC was harassing Bezos, Jassy and the other executives and that the information demanded in the subpoenas was “overly broad and burdensome”.
Amazon said it was disappointed but not surprised that the FTC had mostly ruled in favour of its own position, and was pleased the agency had “walked back its broadest requests” in the subpoenas.
“Amazon has cooperated with the FTC throughout the investigation and already produced tens of thousands of pages of documents,” Amazon stated. “We are committed to engaging constructively with FTC staff, but we remain concerned that the latest requests are overly broad and needlessly burdensome, and we will explore all our options.”
The agency began investigating Amazon Prime in March 2021, focusing on its sign-up and cancellation policies. The programme has an estimated 200 million members worldwide.
It has since broadened the probe to include at least four other Amazon-owned subscription programmes: Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited and Subscribe & Save, as well as an unidentified third-party programme not offered by Amazon.
Last year Amazon unsuccessfully asked that FTC chair Lina Khan step aside from antitrust probes of its business, citing her previous public criticism of the company’s market power before Khan joined the government.