In the New York Times: “Lawmakers question whether Amazon executives, including Jeff Bezos, misled Congress”

From a New York Times story by David McCabe headlined “Lawmakers question whether Amazon executives, including Jeff Bezos, misled Congress”:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers pressed Amazon’s chief executive on Monday to respond to allegations that its executives provided a congressional inquiry with false answers to questions about its house-brand products.

Amazon executives, including its founder, Jeff Bezos, told lawmakers that the company did not look at data from single sellers on its site when it planned for and developed its own products. They also told the House Judiciary Committee that the company did not purposefully give its house-brand products an edge in search results.

Last week, Reuters reported that Amazon had strategically copied products from third-party merchants while growing its business in India. Another publication, The Markup, reported a day later that the company’s house-brand products ranked higher than competitors sold by merchants, even when the third-party products had better ratings.

“At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the committee,” said the group of five lawmakers. “At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.”

In the letter, the lawmakers said they were considering referring the matter to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation. Their exchanges with Amazon came as part of a longer investigation into the market power of the nation’s largest tech companies.

“Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record on the inaccurate media articles in question,” said Brooke Oberwetter, an Amazon spokeswoman.

She said that the company had a policy against using data from individual merchants in building house-brand products and that Amazon’s search results feature “the items customers will want to purchase, regardless of whether they are offered by Amazon or one of our selling partners.”

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