A group of FTC investigators has reportedly begun interviewing small businesses that sell products on Amazon to determine if the e-commerce giant is purposefully manipulating its market to hurt competitors, according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg reports that a team of FTC investigators has begun a probe into Amazon’s online marketplace, interviewing smaller businesses that sells through the website’s marketplace. According to three merchants, several attorneys and at least one economist have begun conducting interviews that last approximately 90 minutes covering a wide range of topics.
All of the merchants were asked what percentage of their revenue was derived from Amazon versus other online marketplaces such as Walmart and Ebay, which suggests that the FTC is skeptical of Amazon’s claims that suppliers have other alternatives to their service. One merchant, Jaivin Karnani, said that he was surprised with the FTC returned his call relating to the investigation just one day later.
Bloomberg states that the nature of the current inquiries imply that the FTC is performing a sweeping investigation of Amazon’s business rather than responding to complaints on a case by case basis. Michael Kades, who spent 20 years at the FTC stated: “Early in an investigation, that’s a sign of staff doing a serious job. They’re spending lots of time with witnesses and trying to really understand what they’re saying.”
Jennifer Rie, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence who specializes in antitrust litigation, commented on the investigation stating: “They’re trying to learn as much as they can about the industry from people who aren’t the target of their investigation. They’re in a background phase.” Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee who now runs a service which helps Amazon merchants stated: “These conversations are going to keep happening. I’ve had several people ask me how to go to the FTC. I give them an email, and the FTC is taking their calls.”