US Government Calls On Amazon’s Bezos To Testify

Amazon Web Services

House of Representatives calls for testimony from Bezos amidst probe into whether company used data from third-party sellers to develop its own products

The US House of Representatives has called on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to testify before a panel investigating whether the company used sensitive data from its own third-party sellers to develop competing products.

The move comes as Amazon struggles with skyrocketing costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic – although it also reported a jump in sales for the first quarter.

The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Friday called on Bezos to appear before it after a Wall Street Journal article appeared to contradict information provided by the company under oath last year.

Citing the 23 April article, members of the panel wrote: “If the reporting in the Wall Street Journal article is accurate, then statements Amazon made to the committee about the company’s business practices appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious.”

Image credit: Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

Business data

The Representatives took issue with statements made by Amazon associate general counsel Nate Sutton under oath last July.

At the time, Sutton said in oral and written testimony that Amazon did not use business information from independent sellers on its platform to develop products for Amazon to sell under its private-label brand.

The Wall Street Journal article, however, said Amazon did use the data, citing 20 former employees of the company’s own-brand business.

The letter was signed by judiciary committee chair Jerrold Nadler and antitrust committee chair David Cicilline, as well as Representatives Ken Buck, Matt Gaetz, Pramila Jayapal, Joe Neguse and James Sensenbrenner.

Amazon sells a wide range of products, ranging from electronics to housewares to clothing, under its own brand in competition with third-party sellers on the same platform.

Ebook price drop

Separately, Amazon said it would lower its ebook prices in the UK with immediate effect, after the government brought forward plans to stop charging 20 percent VAT on electronic publications such as books and newspapers.

The government’s plans were due to take effect next year, but were brought forward due to the economic toll on publishers caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people across the UK to get hold of the books they want whilst they are staying at home and saving lives,” said chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Amazon said it planned to bring the pricing changes into effect “as fast as possible” after being informed of the government’s move late last week.

“For titles where Amazon sets the price, we will reduce the prices of books not already on promotion,” Amazon said in a statement.

The move will see the price of a £10 ebook drop to £8.33, according to Amazon.