United States Senator Urges Amazon.com Criminal Probe “Predatory Data Practices”

Senator Josh Hawley urged the Justice Department on Tuesday to open a criminal investigation on Amazon.com, stating that the online retailer was building a monopoly using “predatory data practices” on sellers using its platform.

Hawley, a Republican who criticized big tech platforms like Alphabet’s Google, has voiced concern about a relationship in the Wall Street Journal that Amazon collects data about products sold by third parties on its site in order to create Amazon branded copies, stating that it has gone far beyond what brick and mortar stores are capable of doing.

“I am writing to ask you to open a criminal antitrust investigation on Amazon. Recent reports suggest that Amazon has engaged in predatory and exclusive data practices to build and maintain a monopoly,” Hawley wrote in a dated letter to Attorney General William Barr. Tuesday .

The four major technology platforms – Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook – are under investigation by the House’s judicial committee and justice department, while the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook and Amazon. In the meantime, groups of attorneys general are examining Facebook and Google.

Hawley noted that the practice was “particularly worrying” as many small retailers were forced to temporarily close their stores and became more dependent on online sales because of the public health measures ordered to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Amazon said in a statement that it “strictly prohibits employees from using vendor-specific non-public data to determine which private label products to launch.”

“Although 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,” an Amazon spokesman said in an email statement.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said he had received the letter and examined it.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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