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House committee calls for criminal investigation into Amazon

A House committee on Wednesday asked the Justice Department to investigate Amazon and some of its executives for criminally obstructing a congressional investigation that included the e-commerce giant.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, members of the House Judiciary Committee accused the company of obstructing its 16-month antitrust investigation by withholding information and lying about how it treated third-party sellers on its platform.

“Throughout the investigation and follow-up investigations, senior Amazon executives engaged in a pattern and pattern of deceptive behavior before the committee,” said a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York. in the letter to the Department of Justice. “Amazon and its executives must be held accountable for this behavior.”

During its investigation, which began in 2019, the House panel’s antitrust subcommittee focused on whether the company was using customer data to advance the sale of its own private label products versus third party suppliers. In their letter, lawmakers said Amazon executives, including an attorney who testified before the committee, have repeatedly denied that the company used customer data to harm competition.

But the Wall Street Journal and The Markup later reported that former employees and internal documents revealed the company was using data to give Amazon products an unfair boost over competitors and that the company also used its ranking systems to showcase the company’s products against those of third parties. sellers.

“Amazon has been caught in the act of lying,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

Tina Pelkey, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said in a statement Wednesday that lawmakers’ concerns were unfounded.

“There is no factual basis for this, as evidenced by the enormous volume of information we have provided over several years of good faith cooperation with this investigation,” she said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the agency had received the letter and was reviewing it.

The letter intensifies pressure on federal regulators to curb Amazon’s power. The House committee accused Amazon of abusing its position in online commerce to harm competitors who rely on the online platform to sell goods. The panel’s antitrust subcommittee also accused Amazon and other tech giants, including Facebook, Google and Apple, of abusing their monopoly power and called for sweeping changes to antitrust laws to reduce the dominance of Silicon Valley giants.

The Federal Trade Commission opened an antitrust probe into Amazon about two years ago, and the agency is also reviewing the company’s proposed $8.45 billion merger with Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Prior to becoming FTC Chairman, Lina Khan was known for an article she wrote for the Yale Law Journal titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which argued that while it offered more convenience and lower prices for consumers , society had abused its dominance.