A bipartisan group of lawmakers has written a letter asking the Department of Justice to determine whether online retailer Amazon engaged in obstruction of Congress during an investigation of the company’s competitive practices. 

The letter said the company had “engaged in a pattern and practice of misleading conduct” that suggested it had sought to influence or obstruct an investigation into how it operates. 

The House Judiciary Committee conducted a 16-month probe into how Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook operated. 

During the investigation, lawmakers focused on Amazon’s use of private-label products and collection of third-party data. 

Amazon allegedly copied popular products in India and then manipulated search results to increase the sales of its own products, Reuters reported. 

The committee’s letter to DOJ alleges Amazon made untrue or misleading statements when asked about those practices. It also said Amazon refused to provide evidence that would “either corroborate its claims or correct the record,” according to the 24-page letter. 

“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,” according to the letter, which was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, House Antitrust Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline, and Democratic and Republican committee members.  

“As a result, we have no choice but to refer this matter to the Department of Justice to investigate whether Amazon and its executives obstructed Congress in violation of applicable federal law,” the letter added. 

Amazon told CNBC that “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.” 

When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos testified to the committee in July 2020, he said the company prevents Amazon employees from using seller data but could not say it had never happened. 

Lawmakers said investigations by news organizations like Reuters and The Wall Street Journal contradicted Bezos’ testimony, as well as testimony of other Amazon employees. 

“Amazon attempted to clean up the inaccurate testimony through ever-shifting explanations of its internal policies and denials of the investigative reports,” the lawmakers said. “The committee uncovered evidence from former Amazon employees, and former and current sellers, that corroborated the reports’ claims.” 

“After Amazon was caught in a lie and repeated misrepresentations, it stonewalled the committee’s efforts to uncover the truth,” the letter said.  

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

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