Amazon accused of copying merchant products in India • The Register

Asked in July 2020 by US representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) whether Amazon had ever obtained data from its third countries to launch competing products, founder and then CEO Jeff Bezos said he could not respond with ” yes “or” no “, but insisted that Amazon have rules prohibiting this practice.

“What I can tell you is that we have a policy against using seller-specific data to support our private label business, but I cannot guarantee that this policy has never been violated,” Bezos said. said.

According to documents obtained by Reuters, Amazon employees in India violated this policy by copying the products of Amazon sellers for their own brands and then manipulating the search results on the Amazon website to put their tops at the top of the lists of search results.

“The documents reveal how the Amazon private label team in India secretly used inside data from to copy products sold by other companies and then offered them on its platform,” Reuters reporters Aditya Calra said. Steve Glass report published on wednesday.

“Employees also stimulated sales of Amazon’s private label products by falsifying Amazon’s search results so that the company’s products would appear, as stated in a 2016 Indian Strategy Report,” in the first two or three … search results ”when customers were shopping on “

Last year the Wall Street Journal published similar allegations that the company used commercial data from third parties to develop competing products, which raised the question of Jayapal’s representative to Bezos. Such allegations are fundamental to Amazon’s ongoing antitrust investigations into US,, Europe, and India.

“We need to ensure that dual-role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition,” Margrethe Vestager, EVP of the European Competition Commission, said in a statement last November. “Data on the activities of third-party vendors should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to those vendors.”

The EC said it had found that a significant amount of non-public vendor data was available to employees at Amazon’s store and that Amazon was analyzing that data to make business decisions that hurt sellers using their online marketplace.

Amazon launches in 2019. a program called Project Zero to prevent third parties from copying and selling their copies through the Amazon market. However, the anti-counterfeiting program is externally focused.

Amazon responds

In a statement sent to The registerAn Amazon spokesman said the company had not seen the documents received from Reuters, but believed they were wrong.

“Because Reuters has not shared the documents or their origin with us, we cannot confirm the accuracy or otherwise of the information and claims as stated,” an Amazon spokesman said.

“We believe these allegations are in fact incorrect and unsubstantiated. We continue to focus on providing first-class customer service and helping small businesses in India reach customers around the world.”

The company’s statement insists that sellers in its market set their prices and that Amazon does not provide preferential treatment to retailers.

The antitrust lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Carl Racine argues that Amazon’s “most-favored-nation” (MFN) agreements with sellers “prevent third-party sellers who offer products from offering their products at lower prices or on better terms on any other online platform, including their own websites. “

Insisting that he collectively analyzes vendor data to provide sellers with information about “customer choice gaps,” an Amazon spokesman reiterated Bezos’ claim that Amazon has a policy that prohibits the use of commercial data for domestic use. use.

“Amazon’s policy strictly prohibits the use or sharing of non-public, seller-specific data for the benefit of any seller, including private label sellers,” a company spokesman said. “This policy is applied equally throughout our company to all employees – our internal teams receive regular training on its implementation and we thoroughly investigate all reports of employees acting in violation of this policy.”

Amazon is not the only organization investigating these reports at this time. ®