Lawmakers Say Amazon Exercised Monopoly Power Over Third-Party Sellers
House Judiciary Committee's Democratic leadership's 449-page report found that Amazon has "significant and durable market power" in the U.S.
This is in terms of the online retail market, with a far higher market share than previously estimated. The report was published on Tuesday. Other companies under the lawmakers' scrutinization are Google, Apple, and Facebook.
Lawmakers added that these companies exercised and abused their monopoly power and called for the most sweeping changes to antitrust laws in half a century.
In the report, lawmakers claimed that Amazon had become a dominant force in the online retail market that resulted in the firm's having monopoly power over third-party sellers on its marketplace.
In addition, CNBC reports that the threat of competing with Amazon can push start-ups to avoid some industries entirely. For instance, one unnamed capital investor in the cloud market told investors that Amazon is useful but also dangerous.
"If you're far enough away you can bask. If you get too close, you'll get incinerated. So, you have to be far enough from Amazon and be doing something that they wouldn't do," the capital investor said in a report.
Lawmakers also found evidence that Amazon saw Zappos and Quidsi as competitive threats before acquiring them.Amazon acquired Zappos in 2009. Before then, it called the online shoe retailer as one of Amazon's primary competitors.
The same happened to Quidsi in 2010, when it acquired the latter in an "aggressive price war" to weaker its subsidiary Diapers.com, which was a competitor of Amazon.
Aside from buying out competitors, lawmakers said that Amazon's dual role of running the marketplace and selling on its own website "creates an inherent conflict of interest."
Lawmakers said that it encourages Amazon to exploit its access to competing sellers' data and information.
The report noted that Amazon publicly describes these sellers as partners, but internally they call them "internal competitors."
Third-party sellers further noted that there is an environment of bullying. Third-party sellers also told lawmakers that they are often left without any recourse after their account has been shut down.
"For sellers, Amazon functions as a 'quasistate,' and many '[s]ellers are more worried about a case being opened on Amazon than in actual court," lawmakers were quoted. Lawmakers also found that Amazon prevented competition in other areas than retail.
The report has recommended a wide range of solutions, including splitting different business units and forcing companies to prove mergers would be pro-competitive.
Meanwhile, Amazon opposed the lawmakers' findings. The company said that their recommendations would reduce competition, forcing "millions of independent retailers out of online stores."
It would then result in less choice and a higher price for consumers.
The company said that all large organizations attract regulators' attention, adding that they welcome close investigations. However, they noted that large companies are not dominant by definition.
Amazon said the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behavior is entirely wrong.
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