FTC, 17 States Allege Amazon Inflates Prices and Overcharges Sellers

An Amazon company logo marks the facade of a building in Schoenefeld near Berlin, March 18, 2022(AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Amazon is being sued by U.S. regulators and 17 states over allegations that the company abuses its position in the marketplace to inflate prices on other platforms, overcharge sellers and stifle competition. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, is the result of a years-long investigation into Amazon’s businesses and one of the most significant legal challenges brought against the company in its nearly 30-year history.

According to a news release sent by the agency, the Federal Trade Commission and states that joined the lawsuit are asking the court to issue a permanent injunction that they say would prohibit Amazon from engaging in its unlawful conduct and loosen its “monopolistic control to restore competition.”

They allege the company engages in anti-competitive practices through anti-discounting measures that deter sellers from offering lower prices for products on non-Amazon sites, mirroring allegations made in a separate lawsuit last year by the state of California. The complaint says Amazon can bury listings that are offered at lower prices on other sites.

The complaint also says the company degrades the customer experience by replacing relevant search results with paid advertisements, biasing its own brands over other products it knows to be of a better quality and charging heavy fees that forces sellers to pay nearly half of their total revenues to Amazon.

“The complaint sets forth detailed allegations noting how Amazon is now exploiting its monopoly power to enrich itself while raising prices and degrading service for the tens of millions of American families who shop on its platform and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on Amazon to reach them,” FTC Chairman Lina Khan said in a prepared statement.

Amazon has also long faced allegations of undercutting businesses that sell on its platform by assessing merchant data and creating its own competing product that it then boosts on the site. In August, the company said it was eliminating some in-house brands that weren’t resonating with customers and would relaunch some items under existing brands like Amazon Basics and Amazon Essentials. Booksellers and authors have also been urging the Department of Justice to investigate what they’ve called Amazon’s “monopoly power over the market for books and ideas.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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