In his first-ever appearance before Congress, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offers a message his fellow tech CEOs will like: Big is good.
“Just like the world needs small companies, it also needs large ones,” Bezos plans to tell a House Judiciary panel Wednesday, according to written testimony viewed by POLITICO. “There are things small companies simply can’t do. I don’t care how good an entrepreneur you are, you’re not going to build an all-fiber Boeing 787 in your garage.”
Bezos, who founded the e-commerce giant out of his parents' garage in 1995, argues in his prepared testimony that Amazon’s size allows it to serve customers through a variety of innovative products while paying all workers at least $15 an hour and taking on social problems like climate change and homelessness. (Bezos didn't note that those employees got their salary bump after sustained pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other Hill progressives.)
It’s Bezos’ first time testifying on Capitol Hill, but he won’t be alone. The CEOs of three other tech giants will join him in testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel: Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tim Cook of Apple.
Bezos will most likely face bracing questions from Democrats, including the panel’s chair, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). Cicilline has made the company’s growing dominance in the retail sector a key focus of the subcommittee’s wide-ranging probe into how U.S. antitrust laws work — or don’t — to protect competition in digital markets.
The Amazon founder may take a little less heat from Republicans, who have indicated that they will zero in on Facebook and Google over allegations of anti-conservative bias. And Bezos’ big-is-good argument — which Zuckerberg also makes in his own prepared remarks for the hearing — is largely compatible with the free market ethos most congressional Republicans hold.
Bezos plans to argue that Amazon is only a small player in the competitive $25 trillion global retail market, an effort to rebut claims that the company dominates U.S. markets and should be reined in.
“Every day, Amazon competes against large, established players like Target, Costco, Kroger, and, of course, Walmart— a company more than twice Amazon’s size,” Bezos says in his prepared statement. “Regardless of how the best features of ‘online’ and ‘physical’ stores are combined, we are all competing for and serving the same customers.”
The tech CEO’s written statement doesn’t address the biggest controversy he is likely to face questions on: how Amazon uses data from third-party sellers who use its marketplace. An Amazon executive told the panel last year that the company doesn’t look at seller data when deciding what products to offer through its in-house brand, Amazon Basics — a claim a Wall Street Journal investigation later reported to be untrue. House Democrats have raised concerns that Nate Sutton’s testimony misled Congress about Amazon’s data practices.
Amazon has said it opened an investigation after the Journal’s story.