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Amazon doesn’t commit to putting Bezos before antitrust committee




Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in February during a visit to India.

Sajjad Hussain/Getty Images

Amazon on Friday offered to send one of its executives to speak before a congressional antitrust committee, but it didn’t say whether CEO and founder Jeff Bezos would show.

The company was responding to US House members, who on May 1 called on Bezos to testify before them. Their request was prompted by a Wall Street Journal article that said Amazon workers had repeatedly accessed the sales data of individual sellers on the e-commerce giant’s site when deciding what Amazon-branded products should be launched. If the Journal’s report is accurate, the practice could’ve given Amazon an unfair advantage over smaller merchants on its site, raising concern in the antitrust committee that the company may’ve abused its dominant position in internet retail.

Amazon said it has policies in place against accessing individual seller data but noted that its private-label workers do research aggregate total sales and search volume data. It said it’s investigating the assertions mentioned in the Journal story and plans to report to the committee what it finds out.

But while Amazon took pains to show it’s been cooperating with the committee, it didn’t say whether Bezos would appear before the panel.

“We remain prepared to make the appropriate Amazon executive available to the Committee to address these important issues,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s public policy vice president, wrote in a three-page letter sent Friday.

Rep. David Cicilline, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, on Friday reiterated his position that Bezos would be subpoenaed if necessary, tweeting: “No one is above the law, no matter how rich or powerful.” He’d said the same last week in an interview with Politico.

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In that interview, Cicilline said he expected the CEOs of Apple, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet to appear as well.

The back-and-forth shows how antitrust concerns about the country’s biggest tech companies continue, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. Investigations by regulators and politicians into these companies had been ramping up over the past year, raising the potential of new regulations being placed on these huge organizations.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic and months-long stay-at-home orders, though, these companies have enjoyed renewed enthusiasm from consumers, with Facebook offering ways for people to connect, Apple providing means of entertainment and Amazon shipping deliveries of food and basic goods.

Still, the antitrust investigations are moving forward, with David Cicilline saying last week that he expected to come out with a report later this year. Also, the Journal reported Friday that the Department of Justice and state attorneys general are planning to come forward with an antitrust suit against Google this year.

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