Amazon Agrees To Make Bezos Available To Congress

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Image credit: US Senate

Company had previously resisted making Bezos voluntarily available to testify in congressional antitrust probe that also involves Apple, Facebook and Google

Amazon has agreed to make chief executive Jeff Bezos available to a US congressional panel investigating potential antitrust violations by tech companies, following an earlier apparent reluctance to do so.

The panel’s hearing, which is likely to involve the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, is set to begin next month.

“(Amazon is) committed to cooperating with your inquiry and will make the appropriate executive available to testify,” said a letter from Amazon attorney Robert Kelner of Covington and Burling LLP, whose contents have been widely reported.

“This includes making Jeff Bezos available to testify at a hearing with the other CEOs this summer.”

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Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos

Testimony

If Bezos appears before the committee, it would be the first time he has testified before Congress.

In May Amazon had responded to the panel’s request to make Bezos available by saying only that it would send “the appropriate executive” to answer questions.

The response was lambasted as “unacceptable” by House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, and the committee had threatened to subpoena Bezos if he did not appear voluntarily.

In April the Wall Street Journal cited more than 20 former Amazon employees as saying the company routinely uses data from third-party sellers on the platform to develop competing products.

The report appeared to contradict earlier sworn Congressional testimony from an Amazon attorney.

Competition

The US Justice Department is also investigating the four tech giants, while the Federal Trade Commission is probing Facebook and Amazon and US state attorneys general are investigating Facebook and Google.

Last week California was reported to be investigating Amazon in an antitrust probe that is in part looking at its use of third-party seller data.

Representative David Cicilline, chair of the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said testimony from the four chief executives was “essential to complete this bipartisan investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace”.

“The Antitrust Subcommittee will continue to use the tools at our disposal to ensure we gather whatever information is necessary,” Cicilline said in a statement.

The European Commission also has an ongoing probe into Amazon and is expected to announce formal antitrust charges this month.

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