According to a new investigation, Amazon has torn down third-party vendor products and corrected search results to favor its own products, saying the company was not engaging in such practices.
The knockoff and manipulation campaign took place in Amazon’s India division with the approval of top US-based executives, lbl reports On Wednesdays.
According to a 2016 document, Amazon employees tracked sales and search data to identify the “reference brands” the company repeated and sold.
The report gives credence to the bird that critics and some third-party vendors have been doing for years: Amazon uses unprecedented sales data collected as the world’s top e-commerce site to determine what products to make under its own labels.
But the company has long denied such allegations. Founder Jeff Bezos, who took an oath with Congress last year, said the e-commerce giant has a rule that prohibits employees from using third-party vendor data to help their private-label business.
“If we find that someone has violated it, we will take action,” said Bezos, who was Amazon CEO at the time.
But internal documents seen by lbl show that Amazon’s own operations were manipulated by search results and copying merchandise from other vendors was part of a formal, secret strategy in Amazon’s India campaign. Records show that two Amazon executives reviewed India’s strategy – Diego Piacentini, senior vice president, later left the company and Russell Grandinetti, who currently runs Amazon’s international consumer business.
In a statement to the Post, an Amazon spokeswoman declined a lbl report.
“As lbl does not share documents or evidence with us, we are unable to verify the authenticity of the information and claims we have,” the spokesman said. “We believe these claims are factually incorrect and unfounded.”
A spokesman did not answer the question whether the lbl report misled Bezos Congress. The report does not say that Bezos is aware of India’s strategy.
The disclosure could fuel the US, European Union and India’s antitrust regulators, with the company investigating allegations that its size was used to squash competition.
In the US, Federal Trade Commission chief Lena Khan wrote in a 2017 paper that Amazon’s private branding business raises competition concerns.
“Third-party sellers who bear the initial costs and uncertainties when introducing new products; by simply identifying them, Amazon sells the products only after they have tested their success,” he wrote. “The competitive effects are evident here.”
Amazon, for its part, has called Khan to withdraw her from any company investigations because she previously wrote critically.
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