Federal Trade Commission (FTC) action against Amazon may happen by the end of this month.
According to Reuters coverage of a report that originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, a long-rumored FTC antitrust suit against Amazon may launch in September 2023. The FTC is said to be considering suing the e-tailer this month after Amazon did not make efforts to settle a June 2023 complaint the FTC brought against it.
That complaint charges that Amazon has engaged in a “years-long effort” to enroll consumers into its Prime program without their consent, while knowingly making it difficult for them to cancel Prime subscriptions. Specifically, the FTC alleged Amazon used deceptive user interface designs known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions.
The FTC said Amazon also knowingly complicated the cancellation process for Prime subscribers who sought to end their membership. In addition, the FTC will reportedly also target what it sees as anti-competitive pricing, advertising and logistics mandates the e-tailer places on third-party sellers using its platform.
The FTC has reportedly been preparing the suit, which it would likely file in federal court, since late 2022. The agency has also reportedly interviewed potential witnesses such as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and founder Jeff Bezos, and has obtained millions of documents.
FTC v. Amazon - a brief history
Under the direction of FTC chair Lina Khan, the agency has been placing Amazon and other major tech companies such as Microsoft, which recently successfully challenged an FTC attempt to block its acquisition of video game company Activison Blizzard, under increased scrutiny.
As far back as 2019, the FTC placed Amazon under increased scrutiny for alleged antitrust issues. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)publicly called for the federal government to break up the “monopolies” of Amazon, Google, and Facebook in March 2019. In addition to accusing these three companies of stifling competition by using their market power to pressure smaller companies into mergers, Warren called out their proprietary third-party marketplaces as unfairly limiting completion.
The FTC is also engaged in ongoing reviews of Amazon’s $3.9 billion acquisition of membership-based primary health care provider One Medical and its planned $1.4 billion purchase of robotic Roomba vaccum maker iRobot.
Chain Store Age has reached out to Amazon for comment. Read more Reuters coverage here.