During Wednesday’s antitrust hearing at the US Congress, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, refused to answer in the affirmative when asked if he can assure users that the company has never used third-party seller data to further the cause of its own business. In an answer to Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s question on whether the company has used seller data to develop competing products, Bezos admitted that he cannot guarantee that it’s never happened.
Jayapal’s question was based on a Wall Street Journal article from April, which claimed that Amazon employees violated the company’s own privacy policies by accessing data from independent sellers on its marketplace to help the company develop competing products for its private-label. “Let me ask you, Mr. Bezos, does Amazon ever access and use seller data when making business decisions?”, Jayapal asked. To which, Bezos tellingly replied: “I can’t guarantee you that that policy has never been violated”.
He, however, asserted that the company is looking into the matter in all seriousness. “We continue to look into that very carefully. I’m not yet satisfied that we’ve gotten to the bottom of it. We’re going to keep looking at it. It’s not as easy … because some of the sources in the article are anonymous”, he said.
It is worth noting that Amazon had earlier denied accessing third-party seller data to develop competing products. In a hearing last year, months before the WSJ exposé, the company said: “We do not use their individual data when we’re making decisions to launch private brands … Our incentive is to help the seller succeed because we rely on them. They have many options. So we apply the same criteria to both”.