back to article Amazon's $1.4B price-raising 'Project Nessie' algorithm exposed in FTC antitrust fight

A fresh less-redacted copy of the US FTC's monopoly-abuse lawsuit against Amazon has confirmed some of what we previously reported about the web goliath's secret price-setting algorithm, and spilled a bunch of juicy details, too. Project Nessie was mentioned by the FTC in earlier legal filings against Amazon, though we were …

  1. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge
    Unhappy

    "The most customer-focused company on the planet" -- Jeff Bezos

    1. Sherrie Ludwig

      "The most customer-focused company on the planet" -- Jeff Bezos

      Focused, yeah, like a magnifying glass on an ant on a sunny day.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      He didn't say "customer-friendly".

  2. David 132 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    As a frequent Amazon customer...

    ...I'm shocked, shocked! by this... and knowing the robust precedents set by previous antitrust cases, I look forward to my compensation of a $0.50 money-off voucher for XYWHUYR-brand Chinese melamine-enhanced parakeet feed when the case grinds to its eventual conclusion.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: As a frequent Amazon customer...

      Well, yes. But at least in this case, an Amazon gift card for a few dollars might be useful to me for buying an ebook or something, unlike most gift-card settlements.

      (I'm not wildly fond of my continued use of my Kindle and Amazon's ebooks, but now I have such an investment in it... I don't know, maybe in another year or two I'll decide I want to further de-Amazon my life and get rid of it, or at least stop buying new Kindle books. And then there's Audible — I occasionally buy audiobooks to listen to on long drives, and I don't know what alternatives to Audible still exist. Time to look into that, I suppose.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As a frequent Amazon customer...

        Have a look at a thing called Bookbub.

        Subscribing to it means you get a list of mostly fiction at far lower prices or even for free. Granted, some are 'book one of a series' type come-alongs, but for me it's perfect as I use my Kindle mainly when I'm bored and need something to read. Over the years I have collected some 1500+ books (well, OK, that Amazon allows me to read, let's be clear) that basically costed me zip (or little) to acquire. Also, when the link has led you to a book you'll find that Amazon tends to put other books underneath that are low priced - I think you can also search for them but I never found the need to bother..

        And yes, sometimes I do pay for a series if it's interesting enough, but in general what I have in the Kindle is lightweight :).

  3. JessicaRabbit

    I can understand why smaller companies or individual would and do settle when facing corporations the size of Amazon but this is the US govt. Surely they have incredibly deep pockets and could easily afford to fight this to the end. Why are they so willing to settle?

    1. very angry man

      To cover amerkin ass, we are the greatest country in in universe (at ripping people off)

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Big multinationals have way deeper legal pockets than governements. Additionally, politicians can be, *ahem*, "bought".

      1. EricB123 Bronze badge

        Additionally, politicians can be, *ahem*, "bought".

        Noooo. Not bought. Lobbied! It's all a matter of choosing the correct words.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        > Additionally, politicians can be, *ahem*, "bought".

        Enabling IRS investigation budget to be cut and laws changed…

        See the various reports about the IRS investigation of Microsoft resulting in a £29bn back tax bill.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon

    Over priced

    Tricky

    Greedy

    Avoided

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Amazon

      Heavy poem, daddy-o. Could have used some bongos.

  5. martinusher Silver badge

    But, but.....this is what corporations do

    It might be wrong, it might be unethical but its SoP for the world that we live in today. I know we were all taught in Econ101 that capitalism is all about finding the best solutions of most value to the customer but anyone who's moved beyond that -- or experienced real life -- knows that its all about sizing up the potential market size and figuring out how to extract the maximum for the minimum. That is, maximizing profit. It used to be known as "Yield Management" but I suspect the term was too near to literal truth to be comfortable so it got replaced by some anodyne (and easily forgettable) term.

    The thing about Amazon, though, is that you really don't have to use their products or services. It might be inconvenient to do without but its perfectly possible (as people who live in countries not served by Amazon can tell you). Its when the same trick is applied to stuff you actually need and don't have a lot of choice about -- food, shelter, fuel and so on -- that it becomes truly evil.

    1. Great Bu

      Re: But, but.....this is what corporations do

      That's what I was thinking when I was reading it - surely this is just capitalism. right ? You charge whatever the market will pay and this system basically just automates that process, checks competitor prices and prices your stuff near it.

      No company is really charging what it costs to make and market it's product plus a bit of markup, they are all charging as much as they can whilst still maintaining market share........

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Europe, Amazon plays off one country against another.

    I'm at a location that can be served equally from 3 different national "Amazons". Amazon recently started a very aggressive campaign to force everyone to the Amazon of where they live, but those shops either have the wrong language (demonstrating that Amazon is still a US company and has no idea how Europe works), have different goods or - and this is where it gets ugly - have totally different prices for the same goods - and yes, that's before shipping costs (if applicable).

    I'm toying with the idea of giving the EU Commission a heads up on these games. The language issue is a breach of law in most countries (certainly for goods that need to be labelled like chemicals), and making a distinction between nations other than for shipping (which should then be made explicit) it breaks the free movement of goods aspect of the EU.

    It's classic US-company-in-Europe behaviour: let's just ignore laws until someone stops them. Woe betides whichever foreign company does that in the US..

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like