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DOJ asked to investigate Amazon over possible obstruction of Congress

The House Judiciary Committee accused the company of withholding information in an antitrust case.
NAPLES, ITALY - MARCH 22: The Ariete 1 sorting warehouse of the multinational Amazon on March 22, 2021 in Arzano, Italy. The first strike of Amazon workers organized by the CGIL, Cisl and Uil unions at the Arzano headquarters was totally deserted by the workers who did not join the presidium to which, in addition to the unions, some formations of the extra-parliamentary left joined. The unions had called the strike day to ask for a review of many aspects of staff contracts: workloads, shifts, meal vouchers, bonuses, travel allowances and reduced working hours, and a general stabilization of drivers, the logistics sector and the administered employees. For some trade unionists, the absence of workers from the garrison should be read as "fear that their contracts will not be renewed". (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)
Ivan Romano via Getty Images
Kris Holt
Kris Holt|@krisholt|March 9, 2022 10:30 AM

The House Judiciary Committee has asked the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon and some of the company's leaders over a possible criminal obstruction of Congress. In their letter, which was seen by The Wall Street Journal, committee members from both sides of the aisle say Amazon declined to provide information related to an antitrust investigation. 

The same representatives — Jerrold Nadler, David Cicilline, Ken Buck, Matt Gaetz and Pramila Jayapal — asked Amazon in October to provide evidence to back up testimony about the use of third-party seller data.

Amazon “refused to turn over business documents or communications that would either corroborate its claims or correct the record,” the committee members wrote in their most recent letter. “And it appears to have done so to conceal the truth about its use of third-party sellers’ data to advantage its private-label business and its preferencing of private-label products in search results — subjects of the Committee’s investigation.”

"There's no factual basis for this, as demonstrated in the huge volume of information we've provided over several years of good faith cooperation with this investigation," an Amazon spokesperson told Engadget.

In 2020, Jeff Bezos, then the company's CEO, told the committee Amazon doesn't allow staff to use data from individual sellers to make competing products, but couldn't guarantee "that policy has never been violated." Executives also said in testimony that the company doesn't use seller data to copy products and then promote its versions in search results, despite reports to the contrary.

The committee opened an antitrust investigation into Amazon, Apple, Meta and Alphabet in 2019. Of the four, the members have only accused Amazon of illegally obstructing the process.

“Amazon repeatedly endeavored to thwart the Committee’s efforts to uncover the truth about Amazon’s business practices,” they wrote. “For this, it must be held accountable.” They informed the DOJ of “potentially criminal conduct by Amazon and certain of its executives.”

"Amazon’s misconduct demonstrates the need for both accountability and change," Antitrust Subcommittee chair Cicilline wrote on Twitter. "The DOJ needs to determine whether Amazon’s conduct constitutes chargeable obstruction of Congress."

Update 3/9 11:26AM ET: Added Amazon's statement.

DOJ asked to investigate Amazon over possible obstruction of Congress