Amazon warns merchants about antitrust bills in Congress

FILE PHOTO: Small toy shopping cart is seen in front of displayed Amazon logo in this illustration
FILE PHOTO: Small toy shopping cart is seen in front of displayed Amazon logo in this illustration, taken July 30, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

August 18, 2021

(Reuters) – Inc has warned some merchants selling via its marketplace that antitrust proposals in the U.S. Congress might hurt their business, a company spokesperson said.

In June, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary approved legislation that would make companies like Amazon decide between running a platform and competing on it. The antitrust bills have garnered bipartisan support, representing Washington’s most serious challenge yet to big technology firms’ power over online markets.

Recently, an Amazon program manager for public policy emailed a merchant to say of the proposals, “We are concerned that they could potentially have significant negative effects on small and medium-sized businesses like yours that sell in our store.”

The staffer then requested to have a phone conversation, according to the email, which was posted online by the e-commerce blog and advisory EcomCrew. Amazon confirmed the authenticity of the message.

When asked if the company had entreated merchants to help it lobby against the legislation, Amazon said its email spoke for itself. The spokesperson also said the outreach reflected a limited engagement with sellers, with whom it communicates regularly across different topics.

In a prior statement, Amazon said the antitrust legislation would make it harder for merchants to make a living and reduce price competition, likely hurting consumers.

CNBC earlier reported news of the correspondence on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)