The US-based e-commerce giant Amazon manipulated its platform and data to copy other sellers’ products and promote its own products in Bharat.
Reuters reported “thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents examined by Reuters – including emails, strategy papers and business plans – show the company ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India, one of the company’s largest growth markets.”
Being the platform where different sellers sell their products, Amazon had access to all the data about the sellers and products.
The company used this data to create its own private-brands and then manipulated the Amazon search engine to ensure its private-brands appear at the top if a customer searched for any product on its platform.
“The documents reveal how Amazon’s private-brands team in India secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform. The employees also stoked sales of Amazon private-brand products by rigging Amazon’s search results so that the company’s products would appear, as one 2016 strategy report for India put it, “in the first 2 or three … search results” when customers were shopping on Amazon.in” reported Reuters.
The Reuters report said “The document, entitled “India Private Brands Program,” states: “It is difficult to develop this expertise across products and hence, to ensure that we are able to fully match quality with our reference product, we decided to only partner with the manufacturers of our reference product.””
In 2020, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had testified before the US Congress, denying Amazon’s indulgence in any such malpractices.
Two senior vice-presidents of Amazon, Diego Piacentini, who has since left the company, and Russell Grandinetti, who currently runs Amazon’s international consumer business, were aware of the strategy and had tacitly approved it.
Last month it was reported that Amazon’s India legal team had paid bribes to Indian officials.
The US Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan had also accused Amazon of indulging in anti-competitive practices.
“It is third-party sellers who bear the initial costs and uncertainties when introducing new products; by merely spotting them, Amazon gets to sell products only once their success has been tested…The anticompetitive implications here seem clear”, She wrote in a 2017 paper.
In February this year, Reuters had reported “Amazon had for years given preferential treatment to a few big sellers on its Indian platform, and used those sellers to circumvent regulations designed to protect the country’s small retailers.”