Amazon VP tries to convince sellers to oppose antitrust bill

The exec posted on an internal forum for third-party sellers.

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Amazon made an appeal to its third-party sellers to oppose a Senate antitrust reform bill aimed at helping their businesses. In a post on Amazon’s internal forum for third-party merchants, the company’s vice president of worldwide selling partner services Dharmesh Mehta urged sellers to oppose The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S.2992), and asked them to contact their senators.

"As we have noted in previous communications to you throughout the past year, Congress is considering legislation, including S. 2992, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, that could jeopardize Amazon’s ability to operate a marketplace service and, as a result, your business’s ability to sell in our store," wrote Mehta.

Just under 500 sellers have responded to Mehta’s post since Thursday, many of them unconvinced by Amazon’s claim that the Senate bill will harm their businesses. “The bill jeopardizes the way Amazon wants to operate. It would not jeopardize marketplaces. Amazon, get your own house in order before asking us as sellers to defend you,” wrote one seller.

“I am personally sick of the condescending posts by Amazon management directed at us. We are not morons and know how to read and think for ourselves,” wrote another seller.

Mehta’s attempt to recruit Amazon’s third-party sellers into unpaid lobbyists follows a wider push by the company against The American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Last week, a public-facing post by Amazon’s VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman warned of potentially degraded Prime membership benefits for customers if the bill passes into law; similar to Mehta, Huseman also suggested anti-trust action might "make it difficult to justify the risk of Amazon offering a marketplace in which selling partners can participate."

The Senate bill contains provisions intended to prevent tech giants like Amazon and Google from giving their own services preferential treatment, thus putting other businesses at a disadvantage. Amazon over the years has been accused of using a number of tactics to put third-party merchants at a disadvantage, including using sales data on third-party products to develop its own competing products and prioritizing products that use Prime shipping in search results.

"We value the opinions of all of our selling partners and use their feedback to make Amazon an even better place for small businesses to succeed," Amazon said in a statement to Engadget. "The referenced comments reflect a small but vocal set of individuals – in contrast, there are thousands of small business sellers who agree with Amazon, share our concerns with the bill, and have written directly to their Members of Congress."

Trade groups funded by Big Tech have spent millions in ads that frame the bill as an “innovation killer” and harmful to small businesses, reported the Washington Post. The ads run primarily in states represented by vulnerable Senate Democrats, in an effort to amp up pressure from their own constituents. The Senate is expected to vote on the S.2992 sometime this summer. The House Judiciary Committee passed a similar bill last year, but it has yet to be scheduled for a floor vote.

Update 6/8/22 1:39PM ET: This post has been updated with a comment from Amazon.

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