Senator asks for criminal investigation into Amazon's alleged data abuse

Christine Fisher
Contributing Writer
WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES, DECEMBER 11, 2019: U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General's report regarding the investigation into DOJ and FBIs work regarding the 2016 presidential election.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/ Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Following the Wall Street Journal’s report alleging that Amazon uses sellers’ data to make competing products, Senator Josh Hawley is asking for a criminal antitrust investigation into the claims. Hawley formally requested the investigation in a letter submitted to Attorney General William Barr today.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, Amazon employees (including executives) have been using proprietary seller data to design and price in-house, Amazon products. In a statement, Amazon denied the practice, and as recently as July, Amazon told Congress that it doesn’t use seller data to gain an unfair advantage. But with more than 20 former Amazon employees corroborating the recent report, Hawley wants to take another look.

“These practices are alarming for America’s small businesses even under ordinary circumstances. But at a time when most small retail businesses must rely on Amazon because of coronavirus-related shutdowns, predatory data practices threaten these businesses’ very existence,” Hawley wrote in the letter.

There’s no guarantee that Hawley’s letter will lead to any action, but it does come at a time with the Department of Justice (DOJ) is in the midst of an antitrust investigation into big tech. And the EU is conducting its own probe into whether Amazon used seller data to gain an advantage. With so many consumers and independent retailers relying on Amazon during widespread coronavirus shutdowns, Amazon could face additional scrutiny.