Do the Democrats really want to destroy Amazon? Possibly, but possibly not. This could be a squeeze play to get large donations for Jeff Bezos, Bezos is not known for making large campaign contributions. The most he has given to any c candidate in an election cycle is $5,000 dollars. That is chump change to Bezos, who is always in the top three richest people in the world. We shall see what happens. If the lawsuits are settled by issuing small fines or being dropped altogether, we will get the answer.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans on launching an onslaught concerning mergers, antitrust issues, and privacy concerns. I would not be shocked to find out Amazon is guilty on all of those counts. The agency has been investigating Amazon since late in the Trump administration mainly about privacy issues. They stand accused of violating users’ privacy via the company’s Ring security products and its Alexa digital assistant.
Politico’s anonymous sources, who have direct knowledge of the action of the FTC say that the attack against Amazon is on several different issues. One of their concerns is about Amazon trying to buy iRobot, the company that makes robotic vacuums, for $1.7 billion. They are the makers of the Roombas. The FTC is considering canceling the deal because they fear that Amazon will only sell its products to merchants that sell their products on Amazon. Think about it. Amazon will make money on every product when they sell to merchants and then they will get a percentage of the sales to consumers.
Another major investigation involving privacy centers on Amazon’s Ring security systems and its Alexa voice assistant. That investigation, according to Politico’s sources, may also come in the next couple of months. Of concern are potential violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
COPPA, the FTC says, “imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.”
A third target slated for FTC’s scrutiny is Amazon’s subscription service, Amazon Prime, as the Wall Street Journal reported last week. In this non-antitrust matter, the FTC is reportedly looking at whether the company misleads consumers into signing up. In addition, the agency charged with protecting America’s consumers is examining whether “dark patterns” are making it difficult for purchasers to unsubscribe.
One potentially significant antitrust-related area where Amazon may apparently get a pass is its $3.9 billion purchase of primary care company One Medical. The FTC’s failure to pursue the One Medical acquisition, according to Politico, is an example of the huge difficulty of getting the data needed to build a case when the target controls that very data.