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US government declares war on Amazon

by on21 March 2023

Likely to be as successful as its invasion of Canada

The White House is planning to act on at least three of its six investigations into the online bookseller Amazon.

The FTC has been investigating the internet titan on multiple fronts dating at least back to 2019. Allegations include abuse of power within its online marketplace, and consumer-privacy violations connected to its Ring cameras and Alexa digital assistant. The agency is also reviewing Amazon’s purchase of robot vacuum maker iRobot.

Such a move to take on one of the big technology oligarchs underpinning US culture is what in the UK is called a “brave move” after all, it is pretty likely that Big Tech will just financially support the toppling of the government so that they can carry on as normal. After all the rival Republicans are signing bills to dial back child labour laws to the 19th century to satisfy their “Big Meat” sponsors, so why not allow Amazon to get what it wants in favour of a donation or two?

However the FTC chair Lina Khan rose to prominence with a 2017 academic paper specifically identifying Amazon as a modern monopolist needing to be reined in.

Amazon has already been hit by local antitrust suits in Washington, D.C. and California, the coming federal cases would be the most significant challenges to the global company yet. The exact timing of any cases or settlements is unknown.

The lack of action so far shows the difficulties facing the agency in taking on a company as multifaceted as Amazon with big expensive legal teams — and suggests the FTC is picking its cases with caution.

The FTC has sued Amazon before, accusing it of illegally withholding tips from some delivery drivers. The company settled the case and paid almost $60 million to reimburse drivers.


Last modified on 21 March 2023
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