Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos finally fields his first question.
Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington asked Mr. Bezos about whether Amazon uses individual data from third-party sellers, as described in an April Wall Street Journal report. “I can’t answer that question yes or no,” said Mr. Bezos in response. The WSJ investigation showed that Amazon’s private-label employees were using information about individual third-party sellers to develop competing products.
Mr. Bezos said that he was familiar with the Journal story and that he couldn’t guarantee that Amazon’s policy had never been violated. He said the company is continuing to look into it “very carefully.”
Mr. Bezos avoided early questioning by subcommittee members due to a technical issue with his virtual feed, which caused a short recess in Tuesday’s hearing.
Amazon has a robust private-label program making 158,000 products. Last year, a top Amazon lawyer gave Congressional testimony in which he said: “We don’t use individual seller data directly to compete” with businesses on the company’s platform.
After the Journal’s story, some questioned whether Amazon’s lawyer had mislead Congress. “At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning,” said Rep. David Cicilline, who heads up the antitrust subcommittee, following the story. “At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress.”