House Judiciary Committee members claim Amazon lied to U.S. Congress about its business practices on Oct. 18.
Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) jointly criticized company founder Jeff Bezos and others for misleading the committee and potentially breaking the law.
“[The company] directly contradicts the sworn testimony and representations of Amazon’s top executives–including former CEO Jeffrey Bezos,” they said in a letter. “Amazon’s representatives misled the committee. At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.”
The committee is also evaluating whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for “criminal investigation” is appropriate. Amazon was previously suspected of engaging in product counterfeiting and manipulating search results in India to promote sales.
Amazon claims the company did not mislead the committee.
“We have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer’s policy that we are aware of–that prohibits the use of individual seller data to develop Amazon private label products,” a representative said according to Reuters. “We investigate any allegations that this policy may have been violated and take appropriate action.”
Bezos previously claimed his business had a policy of not letting workers use customer data to promote private-label product lines. Amazon associate general counsel Nate Sutton testified at a 2019 hearing that the firm does not utilize data to develop its own branded items or change search results.
“Algorithms are optimized to predict what customers want to buy regardless of the seller,” Sutton said at the time.
Committee members gave one “final opportunity” for the company to provide evidence to back up Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s earlier remarks.
“It is criminally illegal to knowingly and willfully make statements that are materially false, conceal a material fact, or otherwise provide false documentation in response to a congressional investigation,” lawmakers said in the letter.
The company now has until November 1 to clarify how Amazon uses “non-public individual seller data to develop and market its own line of products.”