Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told U.S. lawmakers last year that the company has a policy prohibiting employees from using data on specific sellers to help boost its own sales. “I can’t guarantee you that that policy has never been violated,” he added. Now it’s clear why he chose his words so carefully. POLITICO: An internal audit seen by POLITICO warned Amazon’s senior leadership in 2015 that 4,700 of its workforce working on its own sales had unauthorized access to sensitive third-party seller data on the platform — even identifying one case in which an employee used the access to improve sales. Since then, reports of employees using third-party seller information to bolster Amazon’s own sales and evidence of lax IT access controls at the company suggest that efforts to fix the issue have been lackluster.
The revelations come as trustbusters worldwide are increasingly targeting Amazon, including over how it uses third-party seller data to boost its own offerings. The European Commission opened an investigation into precisely this issue in November 2020, with preliminary findings suggesting Amazon had breached EU competition law. “This is fuel for the suspicions I had,” Dutch internet entrepreneur Peter Sorber said when told about the audit. Sorber sold children’s clothes on Amazon, but 18 months after setting up his “Brandkids” store on the platform and entering the required sales data, his products disappeared from the search rankings. “You cannot ask a retailer to show his entire story with all sales statistics and then show that to your own purchasers. This is worse than not done. This is simply unfair competition,” Sorber said.