Amazon has started lobbying third-party sellers to oppose antitrust legislation currently in Congress, according to emails first revealed by e-commerce blog Ecomcrew.
The suite of bills—collectively called "A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, Choice"—seek to undermine concentrated corporate power. From requiring interoperability and data portability so consumers can easily switch services, to prohibiting platforms from self-preferencing their own products and leveraging market power elsewhere to operate below-cost, the reforms could redress many of the legal loopholes that have allowed large technology firms to flourish.
"We're reaching out to a small group of our sellers to make them aware of a package of legislative proposals, currently in Congress, that is aimed at regulating Amazon and other large technology companies," the email Amazon sent to sellers reads. "It is early in the process and the bills are subject to change, but we are concerned that they could potentially have significant negative effects on small and medium-sized businesses like yours that sell in our store."
Amazon does have reason to worry, particularly about the "Ending Platform Monopolies Act" which threatens to pursue structural separation—breakups—of firms that both own a platform and compete on it.
For Amazon, that’s dangerous: Amazon’s dominant position as an e-commerce gatekeeper not only allows it to compete unfairly with third-party merchants on a platform it owns, but to also demand an exorbitant cut of sales, which can be as high as thirty percent.
"What concerns Amazon about the legislation in Congress is that it would end Amazon's ability to prey on small businesses, which is an incredibly lucrative part of their business,” Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance advocacy group, told Motherboard. “One bill would require Amazon to split off its own retail sales as a separate company from the marketplace, which would actually compel Amazon to have to compete with sellers directly. A second bill would end Amazon's ability to force sellers to use its shipping service and would regulate its behavior with regards to sellers, either as an integrated company or a standalone marketplace entity."
When asked for comment, an Amazon spokesperson pointed Motherboard to a statement responding to the bills in June that suggested the bill would hurt Amazon sellers, their incomes, and consumer prices.
The spokesperson went on to add: "This is limited engagement with select sellers, but it should come as no surprise that sellers have concerns and that we are engaging with them, as we have multiple active channels we use to communicate with sellers on a regular basis about a range of things."