US FTC Orders Amazon to Testify

Published on 17 Sep 2022

US FTC, Amazon

Federal authorities have ordered Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy to appear in the government's investigation of Amazon Prime, despite the company's claim that the executives are being harassed unjustly in the examination of the popular streaming and shopping program.

The Federal Trade Commission denied Amazon's request to quash civil subpoenas given in June to Bezos, the former CEO of the Seattle-based corporation, and Jassy. The decision also sets a January 20 deadline for completing all testimony by Bezos, Jassy, and fifteen other subpoenaed top officials.

The Story Behind The Subpoenas

In July of 2021, Jassy succeeded Bezos, one of the world's wealthiest men, as CEO of the online retail and technology company. Bezos was appointed executive chairman.

Amazon has not shown that the subpoenas impose "undue hardship in terms of breadth or timeliness," FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson said in the agency's ruling. However, the FTC did agree to amend several too broad subpoena powers.

Since March 2021, the FTC has been examining the sign-up and cancellation procedures of Amazon Prime, which has an estimated 200 million subscribers worldwide.

The corporation said it was disappointed but not unexpected by the FTC's favorable ruling, although it was glad that the agency "walked back its greatest subpoena demands."

Amazon has already submitted tens of thousands of pages of information in response to the FTC's probe, the firm said in a statement. "We are dedicated to working constructively with FTC employees, but we remain concerned that the most recent demands are extremely broad and unduly onerous. We will investigate all available alternatives."

Amazon’s Objection

In a petition submitted to the FTC last month, the business objected to the subpoenas issued to Bezos and Jassy, stating that the agency "has presented no reasonable justification for seeking their testimony when it can acquire the same information and more from other witnesses and documents." Amazon said that the FTC was harassing Bezos, Jassy, and the other executives, describing the material requested in the subpoenas as "excessively broad and onerous."

At least four more Amazon-owned subscription services, including Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited, and Subscribe & Save, as well as one undisclosed third-party program not provided by Amazon, have been added to the probe. The authorities have requested that the corporation provide, among other customer information, the number of individuals registered in the programs without their permission.

See also: Amazon’s Alexa on Wheels Sparks Fresh Concerns About Privacy

Amazon Prime, with an estimated 150 million US customers, is a vital source of income and a treasure trove of consumer data for the corporation, which operates an e-commerce empire and endeavors in cloud computing, personal "smart" technology, and more. This year, the service acquired a valued feature by acquiring exclusive video rights to "Thursday Night Football" from the National Football League. A year of Amazon Prime costs $139.

Amazon's request was denied a year ago. Amazon argued that FTC Chair Lina Khan's outspoken criticism of the company's market strength before she joined the government made it difficult for her to be impartial in separate antitrust investigations of the company's operations. Khan was an outspoken opponent of digital titans Facebook (now Meta), Google, Apple, and Amazon. As a Yale law student, she published a significant thesis titled "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox", which propelled her into the antitrust scene in 2017.


Featured image: Amazon


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