Jeff Bezos Touts Amazon Success, Customer Trust to Lawmakers

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Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos plans to tell U.S. lawmakers that his company is an American success story that achieved its position through risk-taking and a relentless focus on customers.

Bezos, the world’s richest person, will strike a patriotic and upbeat tone, according to his prepared testimony for Wednesday’s hearing by the House antitrust subcommittee on the market power of big technology firms. In his first appearance before Congress, Bezos will stray far from the subject matter of the committee’s work. He will again tell his personal story and that of his parents, including their decision to invest in what would become the world’s largest online retailer.

Jeff Bezos Touts Amazon Success, Customer Trust to Lawmakers

His opening statement covers everything from Amazon’s hiring surge in recent years for its warehouses, to the company’s commitments to renewable energy, to the recent death of Representative John Lewis and the reckoning on race and policing in the U.S., according to a copy of the remarks released Tuesday by Amazon.

But Bezos also will address, if obliquely, the substance of the hearing: the debate over whether the operators of the biggest online services have amassed too much influence over customers, competitors and vast swaths of the digital marketplace. Bezos said his company’s success rests on the trust it has earned with customers, and the success of the independent sellers on Amazon’s sites.

“It is striking to remember how recent all of this is,” Bezos said in his prepared remarks. “We did not start out as the largest marketplace -- EBay was many times our size. It was only by focusing on supporting sellers and giving them the best tools we could invent that we were able to succeed and eventually surpass EBay.”

Amazon has faced criticism related to its role as the operator of the largest online retail store and a seller of its own goods on the platform. Some small businesses that sell through Amazon say the Seattle-based company’s trove of data gives it an advantage, and the company has faced accusations that it used individual seller data to copy hot products. Others say Amazon uses its position as the largest digital marketplace to charge sellers more in advertising and logistics fees.

Bezos pushed back against criticisms of Amazon’s relationship with third-party merchants, noting they account for 60% of sales of physical products on the e-commerce site, a number that’s growing faster than for the company’s own goods.

“Third-party sellers did very well and are growing fast, and that has been great for customers and for Amazon,” Bezos said in to the statement.

The relationship is a focus of antitrust enforcers at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and in California who are probing the company.

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island and chairman of the subcommittee, and others have suggested that Amazon’s control of the platform gives the company a leg up in competing against third-party merchants, providing valuable insights for launching competing products and the ability to decide which offerings rise to the top of search results.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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