Last month, leaders of the House Judiciary Committee from both parties asked Bezos to testify to address possible misleading statements by the company on its competition practices. They held out the threat of a subpoena if he didn’t agree voluntarily to appear.
Amazon is willing to cooperate with the probe and to make “the appropriate executive” available to testify — including Bezos with other tech CEOs at a hearing this summer, an attorney for Amazon told the lawmakers in a letter, The Wall Street Journal reported.
However, the letter also said Amazon would first want to discuss timing and format of Bezos’s possible testimony and the committee’s pending requests for documents, according to The Journal. Amazon.com Inc. used sensitive, confidential information about sellers on its marketplace, their products and transactions to develop its own competing products, The Journal has previously reported. An Amazon executive denied such a practice in statements at a committee hearing last July, saying the company has a formal policy against it.
If the news report is accurate, Amazon’s statements to the committee “appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false” or constituting perjury, said a letter to Bezos signed by the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and others. “Although we expect that you will testify on a voluntary basis, we reserve the right to resort to compulsory process if necessary.”
Spokesmen for the committee had no immediate comment Monday on the Amazon letter. In response to The Journal report, the company said last month: “We strictly prohibit employees from using non-public, seller-specific data” to determine which of its own products to launch. “While we don’t believe these claims made in the Journal story are accurate, we take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation.”
Officials in California and Washington state also are reviewing Amazon’s practices with an eye to possible violations in its treatment of independent merchants that sell products on its platform, according to reports Saturday in The Journal and The New York Times.
The Judiciary antitrust subcommittee led by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., has been conducting a sweeping investigation of Big Tech companies and their impact on competition and consumers, focusing on Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.
The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission also are pursuing antitrust probes of the four companies, and state attorneys general from both parties have undertaken investigations of Google and Facebook.