In Case You Missed It!
Amazon Coronavirus Response: 3 Things to Know
Amid the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon has found itself in the spotlight.
The walls are beginning to close in around Amazon, as European regulators are moving closer to charges against the company for misusing data of third-party sellers. Meanwhile, a bombshell investigation pulls back the curtain further and reveals the depths of just how far Amazon has gone to preferencing its own products and potentially violating antitrust rules during the pandemic, while another lawsuit emerges against the company over its lack of worker protections against the virus.
Below is a wrap-up of some of the most notable coverage on these topics from the past week.
European Union regulators are preparing to bring antitrust charges against Amazon for abusing its dominant market position.
“Nearly two years in the making, the case is one of the most aggressive attempts by a government to crimp the power of the e-commerce giant, which has largely sidestepped regulation throughout its 26-year history.” (The New York Times, Amazon Set to Face Antitrust Charges in European Union, June 11)
“The EU’s investigation into the practice is thought to go back almost two years. Back in September 2018, the head of the EU’s competition bureau, Margrethe Vestager, said that the EU had been gathering information on Amazon’s practices toward third-party sellers, but she stressed at the time that a formal investigation had yet to be launched. Last year, the EU launched a formal antitrust investigation into the agreements between Amazon and its marketplace sellers as well as how it uses data to select which retailer to link to using the ‘Buy Box’ on its site.” (The Verge, Amazon Set to Face Antitrust Charges in European Union, June 11)
“The case against Amazon is part of a broader attempt in the United States and Europe to probe the business practices of the world’s largest technology companies, as authorities on both sides of the Atlantic see what they believe is a worrying concentration of power in the digital economy.” (The New York Times, Amazon Set to Face Antitrust Charges in European Union, June 11)
“It’s one of the elemental questions about big technology companies: Do they have so much sway that what would be normal behavior for typical companies is no longer innocuous?” (The New York Times, When Amazon Flexes Its Power, June 11)
A new investigation reveals Amazon has begun using its dominance to crush competition for its private-label items during the pandemic, raising antitrust concerns.
“While Amazon has promoted its own private-label products in various prominent spots on its site over the years, consultants and legal experts said this latest iteration takes advantage of the surge in online buying during the pandemic and may accentuate antitrust concerns for a company already juggling domestic and global probes.” (ProPublica, Amazon’s New Competitive Advantage: Putting Its Own Products First, June 6)
“Since people read from left to right, the top left is the most desirable spot in the search results. When we searched for ‘almonds,’ Amazon’s Happy Belly brand whole raw almonds occupied that spot. In the “bra” results, it was Amazon’s Iris & Lilly brand. A search for ‘envelopes’ revealed AmazonBasics security tinted version in the top left, ahead of three paid listings. A search for ‘shaving cream’ featured Amazon’s Made For You shaving cream, to the left of two paid listings from The Art of Shaving brand.” (ProPublica, Amazon’s New Competitive Advantage: Putting Its Own Products First, June 6)
“Absent favored treatment by Amazon, though, its private-label brands sometimes don’t have enough sales under the algorithm’s criteria to justify a listing on the first page of search results, said consultant James Thomson, the former business head of an Amazon team that recruits third-party sellers.” (ProPublica, Amazon’s New Competitive Advantage: Putting Its Own Products First, June 6)
“This is madness,” [former top Amazon seller and e-commerce consultant Jason] Boyce said. “They’re putting their own product right in the front of the line.” (ProPublica, Amazon’s New Competitive Advantage: Putting Its Own Products First, June 6)
Workers at another Amazon facility are banding together to take on the company over its lack of protections against spread of COVID-19, as scrutiny mounts from lawmakers.
“At an Amazon Fresh grocery-delivery warehouse in San Francisco, Amazon has been putting workers and the public at risk of coronavirus infection through cramped conditions, re-use of employee protective suits without cleaning, and quotas that make it impossible for workers to practice social distancing or sanitization, a lawsuit filed Thursday claims.” (The Mercury News, Coronavirus lawsuit: Bay Area Amazon groceries warehouse a threat to workers, public, June 11)
“The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is facing another lawsuit, filed last week, claiming that at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y., productivity requirements were among the conditions leading to coronavirus spread and the death of a plaintiff’s family member. In March, the firm fired a worker who had organized a walkout at a New York warehouse to demand more coronavirus protection. Amazon said the employee was terminated after he broke distancing rules and put others at risk.” (The Mercury News, Coronavirus lawsuit: Bay Area Amazon groceries warehouse a threat to workers, public, June 11)
“U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and at least 14 other Democratic members of Congress planned to ask a court to require greater COVID-19 safety measures at an Amazon warehouse in New York, in a legal brief supporting workers who sued the company last week.” (The Seattle Times, Jayapal, other Democratic lawmakers back Amazon employees’ lawsuit over working conditions, June 9)