FTC says Bezos and Jassy must testify in Amazon Prime investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators have ordered Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy to testify in the government’s investigation into Amazon Prime, rejecting the company’s claim that executives are being unfairly harassed. in researching the popular streaming and shopping service.

The Federal Trade Commission issued an order late Wednesday denying Amazon’s request to cancel the civil citations. sent in June to Bezos, the former CEO of the Seattle-based company, and to Jassy. The order also sets a January 20 deadline for all testimony to be completed by Bezos, Jassy and 15 other top executives, who were also subpoenaed.

Jassy took over the helm of the online retail and tech giant from Bezos, one of the world’s richest people, in July 2021. Bezos became CEO.

Amazon has not argued that the subpoenas “present undue burdens in terms of scope or time,” FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson said in the order on behalf of the agency. However, the FTC agreed to modify some provisions of the citations that it acknowledged seemed too broad.

The FTC has been investigating since March 2021 the registration and cancellation practices of Amazon Prime, which has approximately 200 million members worldwide.

The company said it was disappointed, but not surprised, that the FTC overwhelmingly favored its own position, but was pleased the agency “supported its broader requests” in the subpoenas.

“Amazon has cooperated with the FTC throughout the investigation and has already produced tens of thousands of pages of documents,” the company said in a statement. “We are committed to engaging constructively with FTC staff, but we remain concerned that the most recent requests are too broad and unnecessarily burdensome, and we will explore all of our options.”

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In an FTC petition filed last month, the company objected to the Bezos and Jassy subpoenas, saying the agency “has not identified any legitimate reason to need their testimony when it can get the same information, and more, from others.” witnesses and documents. .” Amazon said the FTC was harassing Bezos, Jassy and the other executives, calling the information required in the subpoenas “too broad and onerous.”

The investigation has been expanded to include at least four other Amazon-owned subscription programs: Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited, and Subscribe & Save, as well as an unidentified third-party program not offered by Amazon. Regulators have asked the company to identify the number of consumers who signed up for the programs without consent, among other customer information.

With approximately 150 million subscribers in the US, Amazon Prime is a key source of revenue, as well as a wealth of customer data, for the company, which runs an e-commerce empire and ventures into cloud computing, “smart” personal technology and more. Amazon Prime costs $139 a year. The service added a coveted feature this year by getting exclusive video rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.”

Last year, Amazon unsuccessfully requested that FTC Chairman Lina Khan step aside. from separate antitrust investigations into his business, claiming that his public criticism of the company’s market power before joining the government prevented him from being impartial. Khan was a fierce critic of tech giants Facebook (now Meta), Google, and Apple, as well as Amazon. He arrived on the antitrust scene in 2017, writing an influential study titled “The Amazon Antitrust Paradox” when he was a law student at Yale.

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