Now that the dust has settled after Election Day, lawmakers have headed back to Washington for a lame duck session that is anything but lame. From averting a government shutdown to the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress has a laundry list of pressing legislative matters that it needs to address. At the top of that list should be passing comprehensive antitrust legislation that would help safeguard online small businesses and consumers from the growing influence and unchecked power of Big Tech firms like Amazon.
Over the years, I’ve watched Amazon grow from a promising e-commerce site to the technology and services titan that it is today. As the company takes more, the third-party sellers that comprise its marketplace have found themselves struggling to survive. Amazon calls all the shots on its platform, including assigning guilt and shuttering the virtual doors of sellers without notice. Just speak with any e-commerce seller and they will tell you that online businesses have no choice but to sell on Amazon in order to make a living. So when I recently heard Amazon CEO Andy Jassy portraying the company as the victim of federal antitrust legislation, it was difficult for me to keep quiet.
Jassy — and the army of Washington lobbyists that Amazon employs — want lawmakers to think that the proposed American Innovation & Choice Online Act (AICO) is an overreaching measure aimed at a few technology companies. But these firms have amassed more wealth, data, control, and power than any other band of monopolies in history, making Standard Oil and Microsoft of the 1990’s look like mom-and-pops.
Jassy also took note of how AICO would provide any third-party logistics company with the ability to fulfill Prime orders, degrading the quality of its namesake marketplace offering and potentially even eradicating it. In reality, the legislation would bring ever-necessary competition to Amazon’s logistics operations, giving sellers a better choice than being forced to empty their pockets for Fulfillment by Amazon, which has continually jacked up its fees since 2020. AICO will also drive more investment into the final mile delivery space strengthening growing demand for home delivery of goods. Investment that won’t happen while Amazon controls the access to Prime.
Amazon has concerns that the legislation’s self-preferencing language is too broad and vague, preventing the company from listing a private-label product above a similar third-party seller’s product in the results. But the legislation would simply stop Amazon from automatically touting its own — and at times, inferior — products over those of independent sellers. The online businesses that I work with have often found their listings behind Amazon’s due to a rigged, biased algorithm.
While Jassy may remind you that private-label merchandise is a strategy used by other retailers, what other company has access to troves of digital sales data about billions of products and millions of their sellers? The amount of proprietary data that Amazon captures on each product and order is staggering. Amazon also has a terrible track record of blatantly stealing product information from its vendors. The kind of information that would be nearly impossible to get with the products sitting on brick-and-mortar retail shelves rather than Amazon’s digital shelves.
Instead of reasonably addressing the concerns of the legislators, Jassy and his Big Tech brethren have decided to wage war against the bipartisan antitrust bill, wanting you to believe that they’re the victim here and that small businesses should thank them. That’s why they’ve attempted to enlist the help of various stakeholder groups in their legislative battle, from conservative nonprofits to affinity organizations.
AICO is one of several antitrust measures on the docket this lame duck session. In September, the House passed legislation that provides federal enforcers more resources to hold companies accountable for anti-competitive behavior. This has given many of us hope that Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley’s legislation has a real chance of becoming law, along with the Open App Markets Act. Senate Majority Chuck Schumer must tune out the baseless arguments that Big Tech lobbyists continue to push and bring AICO to the floor for a vote before the 118thCongress is sworn in.
Don’t let Amazon mislead you. They are not the victim here, but their growing power is victimizing American small businesses and consumers more each day. I’m tired of hearing that this bipartisan, common-sense bill will crush Amazon, when the opposite is true. This bill will strengthen Prime, Amazon, and the small businesses whose backs Amazon climbed on to get to their position of power in the first place.
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