House panel calls Bezos to testify over Amazon allegedly misleading Congress

After a Wall Street Journal report detailed how Amazon used private data from sellers to make its own products, Congress wants answers.

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Amazon's Jeff Bezos is being called to appear before Congress over his company's use of third-party seller data. 

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Jeff Bezos is being called to appear before the House Judiciary Committee about his company potentially having made misleading statements about its business practices. At issue is a report from April 23 that detailed how Amazon would use data from third-party sellers to develop and sell its own products.  

The committee's request, sent out in a letter on Friday, builds on its current investigation into Amazon's "role in the digital marketplace." While it expects Bezos to agree to appear on his own, the group reserves "the right to resort to compulsory process if necessary."

According to the Wall Street Journal report, the data that Amazon collected helped the company set pricing, determine which features to incorporate and decide whether it was even worth getting involved in a product category. The Journal said it spoke with "more than 20 former employees of Amazon's private-label business" in addition to reviewing documents that detailed the practice. 

Examples reportedly included Amazon employees accessing data about a top-selling trunk organizer from a third-party vendor, including total sales and the amount that Amazon made on every sale. The company's private-label business then rolled out its own trunk organizers. 

"If true, these allegations contradict previous testimony and written responses that Amazon submitted to the Committee," the House Judiciary Committee wrote in its letter to Bezos. 

"For example, at our hearing on July 16, 2019, Representative Pramila Jayapal asked about Amazon's use of third-party seller data, and Nate Sutton, Amazon's Associate General Counsel, responded that 'we do not use any seller data to compete with them.'"

An Amazon representative denied the assertions made in the Journal report but said the company "take[s] these allegations very seriously" and has launched an internal investigation. 

"We strictly prohibit employees from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch," the representative said in a statement.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the House committee's Friday letter to Bezos.

Watch this: Fired Amazon employees accuse company of retribution