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House lawmakers ask Amazon to prove Bezos and other execs didn't lie to Congress

Then-CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, testifies in Congress by video conference on July 29, 2020.
Then-CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, testifies in Congress by video conference on July 29, 2020.

Five members of a congressional committee say Jeff Bezos and other Amazon executives misled lawmakers and may have lied under oath, according to a Monday letter to Andy Jassy, who succeeded Bezos as CEO in July.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is asking Amazon for "exculpatory" evidence in light of news reports about the company's special treatment of its own brands over other sellers' products.

The lawmakers, all members of the House Judiciary Committee, add they are weighing "whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate." An Amazon representative on Monday said the company and its executives did not mislead the committee and denied allegations of unfair business practices.

At the center of this inquiry are questions about how Amazon treats its own private labels versus other companies' products on its site. The committee cited recent news investigations by Reuters, The Markup and others saying that Amazon used data from third-party sellers to copy products and give its own listings more prominent play, in some cases without indication.

Amazon has called the media reports "incorrect and unsubstantiated," repeating that its employees are strictly prohibited "from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which store brand products to launch" and that it designs search results "to feature the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon" or another seller.

Monday's letter was signed by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, plus David Cicilline, D-R.I., who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, Ken Buck, R-Colo., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

The House antitrust panel has long been zeroing in on Amazon and other tech giants' use of their scale and influence. The subcommittee's Democrats produced a sweeping report a year ago, calling Amazon "a gatekeeper for e-commerce." One of the key authors, Lina Khan, is now the head of the Federal Trade Commission.

Editor's note: Amazon is among NPR's financial supporters.

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