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Amazon Promises to Work With Congress But Not Offering Bezos

Ben Brody and Billy House

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. sidestepped calls by a congressional antitrust committee for Jeff Bezos to testify amid lawmakers’ allegations that the company hasn’t been forthright with Congress.

The e-commerce giant promised cooperation with the House Judiciary Committee’s probe of its competitive practices in a letter on Friday to the leaders of the panel and its antitrust subcommittee.

But Amazon didn’t directly address increasing demands that the company’s chief executive officer, also the world’s richest man, appear.

The response was called called “unacceptable” by Judiciary panel chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, who added that members of both parties have questions about Amazon’s practices.

“Will will not permit stonewalling of our investigation, by Jeff Bezos or anyone,” Nadler said Saturday on Twitter.

Representative David Cicilline, who heads up the antitrust subcommittee and is running the investigation of tech giants, said in a tweet that he expects Bezos to testify “about Amazon’s troubling business practices and false statements” and threatened to subpoena the company’s founder.

Cicilline, of Rhode Island, is seeking Bezos’ testimony after media reports that appeared to contradict testimony from a company executive about its treatment of the third-party merchants on its site.

Company lawyer Nate Sutton told the committee in a 2019 appearance that Amazon doesn’t use data it collects to favor its own products over third-party sellers and doesn’t use individual seller data to launch competing goods. A recent Wall Street Journal report, though, contended that company employees did use such seller-specific data to develop competing products.

Getting an Edge

In the letter, which was obtained by Bloomberg, Amazon’s vice president of public policy said that accounts of employees accessing individual seller data to give the company an edge represent a violation of policy and are being investigated. The official, Brian Huseman, said that Amazon tracks store data, trends and other details such as best-selling items to better compete.

“As part of our commitment to serving customers, like other retailers, we make use of data to improve the customer experience in our stores,” Huseman wrote.

He said Amazon is “prepared to make the appropriate Amazon executive available to the Committee.”

Huseman denied that the company had been untruthful in its prior statements to the committee, and said that Amazon has produced 200,000 pages of information, including “highly confidential, business-sensitive documents,” and spoken with the committee weekly.

(Updates with Nadler from fourth paragraph.)

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