Amazon May Have Misled Congress, House Judiciary Chair Says

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. may have misled Congress when a company lawyer testified last year that the online retailer doesn’t use data it collects on sales to favor its own products over third-party sellers, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said.

Representative Jerrold Nadler said a story in the Wall Street Journal Thursday that reported Amazon used data from sellers to develop competing products raised “deep concerns.”

Amazon May Have Misled Congress, House Judiciary Chair Says

“Amazon has had opportunities to correct the record on its business practices,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “It is deeply concerning that, beginning with the hearing last year, they may have misled Congress rather than be fully forthcoming on this matter.”

The Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel has been investigating whether Amazon and other U.S. technology giants are harming competition. The chairman of that panel, Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, suggested last year that Amazon lawyer Nate Sutton may not have been truthful in his appearance before the subcommittee.

Amazon said it hadn’t been “intentionally misleading” in its congressional testimony.

“We strictly prohibit employees from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “While we don’t believe these claims made by the Wall Street Journal are accurate, we take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation.”

Independent merchants on Amazon’s platform have long complained that the company’s AmazonBasics line copies popular products they sell. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has investigated the company’s practices and interviewed third-party sellers to see if it’s using its market power to hurt competition, Bloomberg reported in September.

“This is yet another example of the sworn testimony of Amazon’s witness being directly contradicted by investigative reporting,” Cicilline said Thursday in a statement. He said that, at worst, Sutton may “may have lied to Congress.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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