The call to “break up Amazon” is being sounded at various levels and in various places, even as many more Americans embrace the benefits offered by the online retailer due to social distancing regulations. The company has faced some public PR issues over the past year, with complaints from both consumers and employees, however, there are others who would try to do much more than bruise the company’s public image.
Some lawmakers and market watchdogs are said to be considering the idea that Amazon may, indeed, be too big and too powerful. US House members are looking into accusations of possible antitrust violations within the international tech industry. Some of the accusations involve larger companies using de facto market monopolies to fix prices and control supply in order to push potential competitors out of the market, limiting consumer options.
While most are not saying so openly, many seeing these stories seem to believe one of the biggest targets of these congressional inquiries is Amazon. And CEO Jeff Bezos is not waiting to find out. Bezos recently released a statement, reported by national media, that said Amazon is “committed to cooperating with (any) inquiry” and that “this includes making Jeff Bezos available to testify at a hearing with other CEOs this summer…”
This report comes a few weeks after some lawmakers threatened to subpoena Bezos if he refused to testify voluntarily. Among other questions, these congressmen want to ask Bezos about reports that Amazon uses or used third-party seller data to promote the company’s private-label products, which were made to compete directly with similar products being sold by independent retailers. Amazon has already denied engaging in this practice, but congress does not appear convinced.
While Amazon appears to be the brand name highest on the marquee, other big-name tech brands are expected to be included in the ongoing inquiry. Reports say executives at Facebook, Google, and Apple are all expected to be called to testify.
Getting out ahead of any appearance of being forced to comply is a good PR move for both Bezos and Amazon. It telegraphs that the company wants to cooperate and believes they have nothing to hide from appearing for a congressional inquiry. Volunteering ahead of any subpoena says “We are here to help, and we don’t think you will find anything nefarious or illegal in our business practices.”
Bolstering this presentation, Amazon has already turned over more than 200,000 pages of documents to the committees participating in the inquiry. That big number, along with Bezos proactive cooperation, sends a clear message to consumers interested in how this will all shake out.