Big tech critic Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has big issues with Amazon.
The senator has asked Attorney General Bill Barr to open an antitrust investigation into Amazon and what he says could be "predatory and exclusionary" practices.
That was spurred by a report that it was "stifling competition by culling data from the platform's sellers to launch competing products under its own private label, a practice he called an existential threat to small businesses already facing the existential threat of a pandemic.
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“Abusing one’s position as a marketplace platform to create copycat products always is bad, but it is especially concerning now,” he wrote Barr, according to a copy of the letter supplied by Sen. Hawley's office. “Thousands of small businesses have been forced to suspend in-store retail and instead rely on Amazon because of shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon’s reported data practices are an existential threat that may prevent these businesses from ever recovering.”
The Justice Department is currently investigating how Big Tech got that way and whether it was through circumvention of antitrust laws, or perhaps a loophole in the law that needs fixing.
Hawley pointed to a European Union investigation of Amazon's use of data to target third-party sellers and cited testimony from former employees and internal documents that support the conclusion that Amazon "abuses its position as an online platform."
Amazon has said it now has policies preventing this, but Hawley counters that what it says in that policy, and what it does in practice "are two different things."
And during the COVID-19 pandemic, that could be the difference between life and death for small businesses, he suggests. "Thousands of small businesses have been forced to suspend in-store retail and instead rely on Amazon because of shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon’s reported data practices are an existential threat that may prevent these businesses from ever recovering...I ask that you look into this issue and open a criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.