- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2022

House Judiciary Committee members on Wednesday urged the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for obstructing lawmakers’ antitrust investigation.

The lawmakers said the “potentially criminal conduct by Amazon and certain of its executives” involved Amazon acting to influence or waylay the committee’s function. 

Amazon has left standing what appear to be false and misleading statements to the committee,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “It has refused to turn over business documents or communications that would either corroborate its claims or correct the record. And it appears to have done so to conceal the truth about its use of third-party sellers’ data to advantage its private-label business and its preferencing of private-label products in search results — subjects of the committee’s investigation.”

The three Democratic and two Republican lawmakers who wrote the letter said they had no choice but to ask the Justice Department to probe Amazon’s conduct. They are Democratic Reps. Jerrold R. Nadler of New York, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Amazon disputed the lawmakers’ accusations. 

“There’s no factual basis for this, as demonstrated in the huge volume of information we’ve provided over several years of good faith cooperation with this investigation,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. 

The lawmakers’ hunt for information about giving preference to a company’s own products in search results is a key component of legislation Congress is debating. 

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is seeking to prohibit large online platforms such as Amazon from giving preference to its own products on its own platforms. 

The House’s version of the bill was co-sponsored last year by four of the lawmakers requesting the Justice Department investigate Amazon, with Mr. Gaetz the only signatory of Wednesday’s letter who is not a co-sponsor of the bill. 

Any Justice Department activity that brings an investigation or uncovers information about how Amazon addresses the preference issue could affect the bill’s chances of becoming law this year. The Senate version of the bill passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee this year and is awaiting final consideration from the full chamber.

The Justice Department did not respond to request for comment. 

The same five lawmakers who signed the letter previously accused Amazon of potential criminal violations. Last year, they wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy that suggested his company may have lied to Congress based on reports about the business’ work in India.

Amazon said last year that it did not mislead the committee and the lawmakers’ accusations used “inaccurate” information it was seeking to correct.

The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel published a full 450-page report on the dominant market power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in 2020.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide