Amazon witness “may have lied to congress” says antitrust subcommittee

Amazon’s witness in a major antitrust committee “may have lied to congress” about how the retailer uses sellers’ data to develop its own private label products.

The House Antitrust Subcommittee chairman David Cicilline said yesterday that Amazon’s witness at a hearing in July, Nate Sutton, may have mislead the house when he said Amazon did not use data of individual sellers to inform its strategy on own-brand products.

Sutton, who is Amazon’s associate general counsel, may have at best “misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning”, and at worst lied in both his testimony and written answers submitted later on, according to Cicilline.

The accusations come after a Wall Street Journal investigation, which included interviews with over 20 former Amazon employees, found that employees said they had used non-aggregated or easily identifiable data from sellers to inform its strategy.

These statements appear to be in direct contrast with Sutton’s statement, which admitted to using aggregated data but categorically denied using “specific seller data” in which individual sellers could be identified.

READ MORE: Amazon’s revelation as anonymous £250,000 book store fund donor dubbed “horrible irony”

Its investigation also found that some aggregate reports contained just two sellers easily exposing the performance metrics of individuals.

Amazon told CNBC in response to the allegations that it does not allow employees to use “non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch”

“It’s simply incorrect to suggest that Amazon was intentionally misleading in our testimony”.

Cicilline is spearheading an investigation into the retail giant in regarding competition in digital markets, and plans to create bipartisan regulatory proposals to address issues he uncovers.

This report was originally due for submission in April but has now been delayed due to the pandemic.

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