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Lawmakers threaten to subpoena Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as antitrust probe heats up

House lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are threatening to subpoena Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company used data from independent sellers to develop competing products.

The House panel is engaged in an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon and other major tech companies. Probes against the company come as lawmakers become more critical of the business models of Google, Amazon and others, particularly with respect to their supposed hollowing out of the retail market.

“[E]mployees used sensitive business information from third-party sellers on its platform to develop competing products,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to Bezos Friday. “The report was based on interviews with over 20 former or current Amazon employees and the company’s internal documents,” they wrote, citing TheWSJ’s April 23 report.

The WSJ report showed that employees used data from third-party sellers to create competing products, a practice Amazon has repeatedly denied doing. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was one of the first lawmakers to hit the company over the reported ploy.

Amazon’s accumulation of competitors’ data during a pandemic is helping to create a monopoly, he wrote Tuesday in a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking the Department of Justice to engage in a criminal probe of the tech titan. Hawley believes Amazon’s actions are effectively gutting small business at a time when a pandemic and lockdowns are pummeling retailers.

“If these allegations are true, then Amazon exploited its role as the largest online marketplace in the U.S. to appropriate the sensitive commercial data of individual marketplace sellers and then used that data to compete directly with those sellers,” the letter added.

Amazon is providing the House Judiciary Committee with documents but has so far dismissed attempts to have Bezos testify, TheWSJ reported.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is among a cadre of 33 attorneys general who are engaging in a broad investigation into the industry. Paxton, a Republican, is leading the charge and accused Google in February of delaying the case as the company tries to prevent officials from bringing in outside consultants.

Google competitors said the company uses its technology and power to squeeze out the competition while favoring its own product. The company’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of DoubleClick in 2007 helped bolster the company’s foothold in advertising technology.

Amazon has not responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Written by Chris White on May 1, 2020

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