• The lawmakers say Amazon executives may have lied in previous testimony
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has suggested breaking up Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google
  • Amazon hired 175,000 people in March and April to keep goods moving during the coronavirus pandemic

Congressional antitrust investigators Friday said they would subpoena Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos if he does not agree to testify about allegations his company uses data from the 2.5 million third-party sellers on its website to decide what products to launch – something the company has denied.

Amazon has 100 private-label products on offer and has acknowledged drawing on sales data to make its decisions.

The House Judiciary Committee began an antitrust investigation last September into Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google with an eye toward whether the tech giants should be broken up as suggested by former Democratic presidential hopeful and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“We do not use any seller data to compete with them,” Bezos told lawmakers in July. Lawmakers said Bezos could face perjury charges if the statement is proved false.

“Amazon has had opportunities to correct the record on its business practices. It is deeply concerning that, beginning with the hearing last year, they may have misled Congress rather than be fully forthcoming on this matter, notwithstanding our repeated requests in this regard,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement last week.

Acknowledging Amazon’s role in keeping goods moving during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, Nadler said, however, “we still need to understand the business practices existing prior to the pandemic that resulted in Amazon becoming the primary provider of goods online to millions of Americans.”

Amazon on Thursday said it expected to invest $4 billion on COVID-related expenses in the second quarter to keep goods moving to consumers and to keep employees safe, including developing its own testing capabilities. The company hired 175,000 people in March and April.

Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., who chairs the antitrust subcommittee, said Amazon previously has been caught misstating the facts.

“At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning. At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress,” he said.

On Friday they demanded Bezos testify, threatening a subpoena if he did not agree voluntarily.

In a tweet posted later, Cicilline said: “Amazon has had multiple chances to come clean about its business practices. Instead its executives have repeatedly misled the committee and the public. Enough.”