back to article Amazon not happy with antitrust law targeting Amazon

Amazon has blasted a proposed antitrust law that aims to clamp down on anti-competitive practices by Big Tech. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) led by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and House Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) is a bipartisan bill, with Democrat and Republican support in the Senate and …

  1. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Duh, you'd think

    Of course Amazon is going to promote the products it makes the most money on, ie: their own. Consumers shouldn't be so naive that they think store recommended products are the cheapest or best. If lawmakers start down the path of trying to insulate everybody from common sales tactics, they'll be doing nothing else.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Duh, you'd think

      That wouldn't be a problem if they had search working where you could actually find products you are looking for.

      Sometimes you have a better chance of finding something using Google and site:amazon.co.uk than Amazon own search.

      Then there should be an option to remove Chinese products from results (or simply add a country of origin filter).

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Duh, you'd think

        "Sometimes you have a better chance of finding something using Google and site:amazon.co.uk than Amazon own search."

        Absolutely - many times search in Amazon shows up similar stuff sold by them rather than exactly what I'm looking for sold by someone else.

        Couple more points

        - I actually agree with Amazon that the qualifying thresholds seem to be set extremely high so that in practice Amazon is the only business that has to comply. The thresholds do need to be high enough to not catch SMEs, but still low enough that all companies with multi-billion turnover have to comply

        - The Prime thing is a red herring. It's fairly simple for Amazon to request of 3rd-party suppliers whether they can deal with 2-day or next-day delivery, and keep track of that somewhere. It's almost trivial for Amazon to have an additional checkbox for Amazon Prime customers saying something like "also show offers not delivered in 2 days" or similar wording. It's not that they can't, it's that they don't want to

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Duh, you'd think

          "fairly simple for Amazon to request of 3rd-party suppliers whether they can deal with 2-day or next-day delivery"

          I order stuff through Prime for the primary reason that if it turns out to be crap, defective, or very much not what it claims to be (depressingly common), I can send it back at their expense, not mine.

          A definite +1 for the ability to filter out Chinese stuff. I'd go a step further and ask to filter out anybody who has been reported for sending fake things that don't match the photo...

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Duh, you'd think

            I'd go a step further and ask to filter out anybody who has been reported for sending fake things that don't match the photo...

            That would make it trivial for sellers to block competitors. Pretty soon with such a filter you'd see nothing but Amazon results.

            1. keith_w

              Re: Duh, you'd think

              The other thing about those sellers is as soon as they are blocked they change their names to get unblocked.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Duh, you'd think

              "Pretty soon with such a filter you'd see nothing but Amazon results."

              Isn't that the case already when searching for things using Google?

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Duh, you'd think

            "I order stuff through Prime for the primary reason that if it turns out to be crap, defective, or very much not what it claims to be (depressingly common), I can send it back at their expense, not mine."

            Don't return stuff too often or your account will be cancelled. If you also stream content from them, that account goes away as well. Plenty of stories on those issues.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Duh, you'd think

        "Sometimes you have a better chance of finding something using Google and site:amazon.co.uk than Amazon own search."

        I don't use Google, but I dig. There are often cases where using a search engine is faster and easier to find something rather than using a company's web site. I find that out often enough when I'm look for a manual for something I've bought second hand.

        I keep banging eBay to add a blocked seller list. Sellers can block problematic buyers, but a buyer that's had a bad experience can't put a seller on a list so they won't buy something from them again.

        Country of origin filters might or might not work. Even if it's required on packaging, many times imported goods don't have it. It might also just say "Packed in the UK" and not state the origin of whatever is in the package. I find this common for food stuffs. I'm not in opposition to having the filter. I'd rather buy fewer high quality products than cheap Chinese goods that aren't going to last a year. I had a toaster from Walmart that didn't even make it through one loaf of bread before breaking. Sure, I could take it back. If I kept the receipt and the cost in gas was worth the trip. That was years ago and I haven't shopped at WallyWorld since then. It wasn't the first time goods I bought there were not fit for purpose. It's a sad state of affairs when the thrift store sells higher quality merchandise.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Duh, you'd think

      Are seriously saying they cannot do many things at once and there should be ANY excuse for not protecting customers?

      Because that is unacceptable bollocks.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Malice or incompetence?

    These targeted laws are always thrown out, not that they are likely to be passed anyway - in this political climate they couldn't get a majority for a law giving themselves free icecream.

    So either the two very well known politicians are naive but well meaning fools, or they want some press going into the midterms; showing how they are battling Amazon on behalf of poor oppressed workers / struggling Walmart execs, but without any danger of anything happening

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Malice or incompetence?

      "or they want some press going into the midterms; showing how they are battling Amazon on behalf of poor oppressed workers"

      Politicians have to have things they can't point to that shows they are "doing something". It's doesn't have to be a valid solution to the problem or written in a way that courts won't knock down since those things will not be pointed out to the voter at the same time.

      Amazon is a nice big target that's easy for a politician to get people riled up about. The way the game is often played is regulations will be proposed that only a very large online marketplace can afford to comply with. Those regulations will not get any news coverage and will serve to solidify the top position of a company such as Amazon since other companies that aren't already very large will not be able to afford. The same sort of thing is happening with Social Media regulations.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    "some Democrat senators believed it all may backfire on them in the mid-term elections"

    I'm sorry, are you making laws to protect US citizens, or are you making them to look good and get re-elected ?

    I absolutely hate that kind of argument. Politics is not about getting re-elected (okay, it shouldn't be).

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: "some Democrat senators believed it all may backfire on them in the mid-term elections"

      Politics is ALWAYS about getting re-elected (and getting bribes!!!).

      Politicians care about the public to about the same degree as a dog cares about a flea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "some Democrat senators believed it all may backfire on them in the mid-term elections"

        .... to about the same degree as a flea cares about it's dog.

  4. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Meh

    $550 billion in annual sales or market cap

    It's a small thing, but it always annoys me when people act like the market cap of a business is comparable to an annual flow of cash. As in "Company X is now more than the GDP of country Y". It's like comparing wealth and revenue: "people whose total wealth or yearly income is over $1M".

    Regarding Walmart, maybe the question should be how much of their income is made online? My understanding is that products on their website are a mix of what they sell themselves and what third parties sell, but products in their brick and mortar stores are exclusively what they sell themselves.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      They put the market cap in because it looks a little obvious to say 'this law only to be used against Amazon'

      It works the other way, some representative from Colorado tried to get a bill for subsidies to a certain industry with plants operating above 8000ft

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      $550 billion in annual sales or market cap

      I originally read this as "$550 billion in annual sales or market crap".

      As accurate as that misreading might be, I do need new glasses!

      ...or a less cynical outlook, but that's not likely to happen...

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    Just a small thought

    According to this, those who sign up for Amazon's fulfillment programme get preference. This doesn't seem entirely illogical - they are handing over a chunk of their hard earned in order that Amazon do certain things for them.

    So, then, what's stopping the other retailers who want to benefit from these perks from signing up themselves?

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Just a small thought

      So, then, what's stopping the other retailers who want to benefit from these perks from signing up themselves?

      Cost, and a whole load of T&Cs.

      Mum wrote a number of books, and decided to try selling them on Amazon - we decided not to when we read the T&Cs. To have Amazon stock them you have to agree to a contract which says :

      * You pay them to take them into the warehouse

      * You pay them to store them

      * You pay them commission on sales

      * If Amazon decides they aren't selling well enough then Amazon can unilaterally decide to de-stock them. If that happens then you either pay for them to send them back to you, or you pay them to pulp them.

      But that's not the main problem with Amazon. The main problem is that it's a bit like them owning a real bricks & mortar shopping centre. It's so big that anything not in there is effectively a niche shop that most people will never see. But if you decide to rent a shop there, you are forced to use the owners EPOS system - and the owner WILL use that data to work out what is selling well for you and at what price. Oh yes, the owner also has big shops of it's own positioned so that you can't get to any other shop without passing them. And guess what, anything that appears to sell well for one of the tenants, suddenly gets promoted in the owner's shops - where people will see it before they see it in the smaller tenanted shops.

      What is really needed, and I think this is the direction the EU investigations are looking, is for dominant platforms like Amazon to have to choose - they can EITHER be a shop in their own right; or they can be a platform for others to use. What is wrong is them being in a position to see exactly what everyone else is selling, how much they are selling, and what they are selling it for - and then use their privileged access to that information to unfairly promote it's own products.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Just a small thought

        "they can EITHER be a shop in their own right; or they can be a platform for others to use."

        Some outside sellers that hit on a product that's very popular find that Amazon de-ranks them and sells a very similar product from their own inventory. Sometimes Amazon is able to track down the OEM manufacturer and does a deal with them to sell the exact same product but with Amazon branding. What they are doing is using the marketplace seller to do their market research.

        I agree that they should choose to be one or the other. Another issue is advertising and branding to make it appear that items purchased through the web site are from that web site owner. eBay has been doing some of that and it's irritating. Amazon does it all of the time. Even places such as Newegg can be guilty of not making it clear that many items advertised on the site are being sold by third party vendors.

  6. jmch Silver badge
    Boffin

    "what's stopping the other retailers who want to benefit from these perks from signing up themselves?"

    I would guess maybe cost? Amazon's processes are notoriously efficient but how much of those savings do they pass to their suppliers rather than their customers? The actual fees they charge are below - honestly I haven't got a clue if that's reasonable, expensive or cheap.

    https://sell.amazon.com/pricing?ref_=sdus_fba_main_pricing#fulfillment-fees

  7. Someone Else Silver badge

    Meanwhile, form the Monopolists' camp, we hear...

    The US Chamber of Commerce's chief policy officer Neil Bradley said in a statement of the revised version: "This legislation would irreparably harm the American economy and innovation.

    "It fails to address bipartisan concerns that it would undermine our national security, cybersecurity, privacy, and international competitiveness — and harm consumers. Such an approach will fuel further inflation, limit choices, and undermine investment in innovation by injecting regulatory uncertainty into the marketplace at the worst possible time."

    Yadda, yadda, yadda...more bullshit from the primary orifice of same. How, one might ask, is making sure that Amazon doesn't promote itself over other smaller outfits in its bazaar, going to impair "national security" or "privacy"1, or "harm consumers"? It's abject crap like that that makes the Chamber of Commerce a blatherskite, and imminently ignorable.

    1Funny that the redder-than-red Chamber of Commerce should be talking about protecting Americans' privacy, when their toadies in all levels of the legislature (and judiciary) are happily trying to destroy it. More Republicon hypocrisy, I wot.

  8. conel

    Give 'em enough rope

    Amazon are gradually pushing themselves down market and they should be allowed to continue. I've been automatically translating "Amazon recommends" into "garbage with a high profit margin" for a few years now.

    The idea that Amazon are some behemoth that can't be competed with is simply not true. If you want generic garbage you can get it from ebay/ alibaba at a lower price. If you want reasonable quality there are numerous other retailers that are at the same or lower prices for the different market segments. What Amazon has is convenience and that will only go so far.

    Government regulation targeted at a specific company isn't a sensible route to go down. Improved transparency such as "country of origin"/ "affiliation with retailer" could be applied to all retailers to benefit consumers, but the politicians are not really interested in that.

  9. Phil Kingston

    It is

    https://www.amazon.com.au/MunnyGrubbers-Worlds-Smallest-Keychain-Condolences/dp/B08FJDDDYR

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    It was Wally World now its Amazon

    Congress critters seem to always moan about the current retail behemoth. I can remember when Wally World was a favorite target, today its Amazon. From the way the bill is written I have my doubts the courts will let it stand anyway. There are antitrust laws on the books and I wonder way they could not be used; but then it would DOJ that would get the credit not America's Native Criminal Class.

  11. jngreenlee
    Megaphone

    Retail Store Shelves

    Retail stores do some similar things with shelves, having preferred partners pay for placement, and also placing their own in-house brand in key places (same margin story as Amazon's). Will this be prohibited? If not, why not...(it seems the same)?

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