Multiple members of the House Judiciary Committee have accused Amazon of lying about how it optimizes product suggestions to promote its own brand, and the committee is considering referring the matter to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation. A monitor displays Amazon.com Inc. stock information at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2018. Amazon.com Inc. briefly became America's second trillion-dollar company on Tuesday after adding $434 billion to its market cap this year. (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)

House Judiciary Committee accuses Amazon of lying about favoring own brand in product suggestions

Virginia Aabram October 18, 08:54 AM October 18, 08:54 AM

Multiple members of the House Judiciary Committee have accused Amazon of lying about how it optimizes product suggestions to promote its own brand, and the committee is considering referring the matter to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.

“At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the Committee,” the bipartisan committee’s Monday letter said. “At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.”

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The committee included the 2019 testimony of Nate Sutton, Amazon’s associate general counsel, who said the company “appl[ies] the same criteria whether you’re a third-party seller or Amazon” and that “the algorithms are optimized to predict what customers want to buy regardless of the seller.”

The letter follows a Reuters report last week that revealed that “Amazon’s private-brands team in India secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform [and] stoked sales of Amazon private-brand products by rigging Amazon’s search results so that the company’s products would appear.”

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The committee asks Amazon CEO Andy Jesser to corroborate Sutton’s testimony and Reuters’s allegations by providing internal data and sworn statements by Nov. 1.

“Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record on the inaccurate media articles in question,” the company said in a statement. “We investigate any allegations that this policy may have been violated and take appropriate action. In addition, we design our search experience to feature the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon or one of our selling partners.”

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