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US lawmakers question whether Amazon misled Congress

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Amazon logo is seen outside its JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, US, on November 25, 2020. (Reuters photo)

A group of US lawmakers on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee has called on Amazon to provide information about America’s e-commerce giant’s business practices following a series of reports that the company’s executives misled Congress.

“We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity to correct the record and provide the Committee with sworn, truthful, and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Monday. Jassy, a longtime Amazon executive, succeeded Bezos in July.

Addressed to the Amazon CEO, the letter also states that the House committee is considering "whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate."

 The letter comes following a Reuters investigation published last week that showed that the company had conducted a systematic campaign of copying products and rigging search results in India to boost sales of its own brands.

The letter states that the Reuters story and recent articles in several other news outlets "directly contradicts the sworn testimony and representations of Amazon's top executives – including former CEO Jeffrey Bezos."

"At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon's representatives misled the Committee. At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law," the letter states.

The letter was signed by the judiciary committee's chairman, Democrat Jerrold Nadler, and four members of the antitrust subcommittee -- its chair, Democrat David Cicilline, vice-chair Pramila Jayapal and Republicans Ken Buck and Matt Gaetz.

An Amazon spokesperson, however, claimed in a statement that “Amazon and its executives did not mislead the committee, and we have denied and sought to correct the record on the inaccurate media articles in question."

"As we have previously stated, we have an internal policy, which goes beyond that of any other retailer's policy that we're aware of, that prohibits the use of individual seller data to develop Amazon private label products. We investigate any allegations that this policy may have been violated and take appropriate action,” the statement added.

US Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday called for breaking up the company following the publication of the Reuters investigation. Meanwhile, a group of people representing millions of brick-and-mortar retailers in India called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to take action against Amazon.

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