Amazon and its executives potentially committed criminal obstruction of Congress, according to lawmakers.
The Wall Street Journal, citing sources and a Wednesday letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, reported that bipartisan members on the House Judiciary Committee have asked the Justice Department to investigate Amazon.
The lawmakers accused the Big Tech company of refusing to provide information sought as part of an investigation by the panel's Antitrust Subcommittee into Amazon's competitive practices.
The company's refusal was an attempt to cover up a lie Amazon executives told lawmakers about its treatment of external sellers on its platform, the letter said, WSJ reported.
At issue are responses to lawmakers' inquiries about how Amazon uses the data of third-party sellers on its platform when creating private-label products, and how it treats those Amazon brands in its search results, WSJ said.
WSJ reported in April 2020 that Amazon employees routinely used such seller data to develop products for its own brands.
"Amazon repeatedly endeavored to thwart the Committee's efforts to uncover the truth about Amazon's business practices," the lawmakers' letter said, WSJ reported. "For this, it must be held accountable."
The letter did not specify which Amazon individuals were being targeted.
Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos told the House Antitrust Committee in July 2020 that he couldn't guarantee that its policy was always followed.
In October, lawmakers held out the threat of seeking a criminal investigation of Amazon, saying they're giving the tech giant a "final chance" to correct previous testimony by executives on its competition practices.
The action, coming in an Oct. 18 letter to Amazon President and CEO Andy Jassy, marked an escalation in a bipartisan battle against Amazon by the House Judiciary Committee panel that has investigated the market dominance of Big Tech.
Amazon has denied that the company or its executives misled the committee, and a company spokesperson has said that internal policy prohibits using individual seller data to develop Amazon products.
House members have conducted a 16-month antitrust investigation into Amazon and fellow Big Tech companies Apple Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc., and Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms Inc.
WSJ reported that the letter to Garland cites only Amazon as being accused of illegal obstruction.
The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., and committee members Reps. Ken Buck, R-Colo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., WSJ reported.
In October, lawmakers from both parties have started to signal their support for new restrictions and regulations on major technology companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, WSJ reported.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., came out in support of a new bill to restrict online platforms from favoring products or services that they make, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a bill aimed at discouraging the promotion of harmful content on social media.
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