(CN) — The House Judiciary Committee asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday to testify about an explosive report that his employees used sensitive business information from third-party sellers to develop competing products.
“If the reporting in the Wall Street Journal article is accurate, then statements Amazon made to the committee about the company’s business practices appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious,” Chairman Jerry Nadler wrote in a 4-page letter, co-signed by a bipartisan coalition of six members of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
The blockbuster allegation stemmed from an April 23 article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Amazon Scooped Up Data from Its Own Sellers to Launch Competing Products.”
Both the newspaper and the committee noted that Amazon told Congress the opposite on July 16, 2019.
Pressed by Representative Pramila Jayapal about Amazon’s use of third-party seller data, the company’s general counsel Nate Sutton responded: “We do not use any seller data to compete with them.”
Sutton gave a similar denial in response to another question by Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
“We do not use their individual data when we’re making decisions to launch private brands,” Sutton said.
Jayapal and Cicilline, who are Democrats from Washington and Rhode Island, respectively, both signed the letter to Bezos on behalf of the subcommittee.
Top House Republicans, like James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Matt Gaetz of Florida, also signed the letter, signaling bipartisan oversight of the world’s richest man, who has become a political whipping post of President Donald Trump because of his ownership of The Washington Post.
“As you know, the Committee is investigating Amazon’s role in the digital marketplace,” House Judiciary’s letter states. “Last September, we requested documents and communications related to Amazon’s relationship with sellers, including Amazon’s use of third-party sellers’ data. Notwithstanding the Committee’s regular communication with Amazon’s outside counsel on this matter, Amazon has not made an adequate production in response to this request, and — seven months after the original request — significant gaps remain.”
For now, the committee stopped short of issuing a formal subpoena.
“Although we expect that you will testify on a voluntary basis, we reserve the right to resort to compulsory process if necessary,” the letter states.
Amazon’s spokesman declined to comment except to reiterate its response to the Journal’s investigation.
“As we told the Wall Street Journal and explained in our testimony, we strictly prohibit employees from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch,” the spokesman said. “While we don’t believe these claims made in the Journal story are accurate, we take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation.”