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Senator calls for a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon over 'predatory and exclusionary data practices' (AMZN)

Senator Josh Hawley

  • Sen. Josh Hawley asked Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday to launch a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon. 
  • Citing a Wall Street Journal report that alleged the company used third-party sellers' data to benefit its private label brands, Hawley said the company "has engaged in predatory and exclusionary data practices to build and maintain a monopoly." 
  • The company has been subject to similar investigations by the European Union
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Sen. Josh Hawley on Tuesday called for a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon's reported use of third-party sellers' data to benefit its private label brands. 

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Hawley said Amazon "has engaged in predatory and exclusionary data practices to build and maintain a monopoly," citing a Wall Street Journal report that said the company uses data from third-party sellers to inform decisions on pricing or features to copy in products by its private label brands, such as Amazon Basics. 

"Antitrust law imposes criminal penalties on companies that try to acquire or maintain monopoly power," said Hawley, a Missouri Republican and former state attorney general. "Amazon's data practices, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, appear to meet that description. Amazon abuses its position as an online platform and collects detailed data about merchandise so Amazon can create copycat products under an Amazon brand." 

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter, but told the Journal in its report that the company has opened an internal investigation into the matter. It said such practices would violate its own policies. 

The company has been subject to similar antitrust investigations overseas, where the European Union opened an investigation last year over the company's role as both the marketplace for third-party sellers and those sellers' competitor through its private label brands. 

Hawley said that "abusing one's position as a marketplace platform to create copycat products always is bad, but it is especially concerning now," because of the coronavirus, as small businesses "have been forced to suspend in-store retail and instead rely on Amazon." 

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