US Congress lawmakers held out the threat of seeking a criminal investigation of Amazon, saying they are giving the tech giant a "final chance" to correct previous testimony by executives on its competition practices.
The action, coming in a letter to Amazon President and CEO Andy Jassy, marks an escalation in a bipartisan battle against Amazon by the House Judiciary Committee panel that has investigated the market dominance of Big Tech. The lawmakers are giving Amazon until November 1 to "correct the record" and provide new documents and evidence.
The Wall Street Journal had reported then that Amazon used sensitive, confidential information about sellers on its marketplace, their products and transactions to develop its own competing products. An Amazon executive denied such a practice in statements at a subcommittee hearing in July 2019, saying the company has a formal policy against it.
The letter said the antitrust subcommittee was considering referring the case to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, as it accused Amazon of at least misleading Congress and possibly outright lying. The letter cites recent media reports detailing Amazon's alleged practice of undercutting the businesses that sell on its platform by making knock-offs, or very similar products, and boosting their presence on the site.
The reports directly contradict sworn testimony of Amazon executives and other statements to Congress, the letter says. It was signed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the antitrust panel.
"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 letter said.
Jassy took over the top position at Seattle-based Amazon from founder Jeff Bezos in July.
Amazon denied that its executives had misled the panel in their testimony.