Lawmaker: sellers liken Amazon's platform to 'heroin'

Cicilline went on quoting the company as saying, "you had to get your next fix, your next check, but at the end of the day you find out that this person who is seemingly benefiting you, making you feel good, was just ultimately going to be your downfall."

"Why on earth would they compare your company to a drug dealer?" asked Cicilline.

"I completely disagree with that characterization," said Bezos, why tried to defend himself against Cicilline claiming Amazon is anticompetitive.

Facebook Inc's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon.com Inc's Jeff Bezos, Alphabet Inc-owned Google's Sundar Pichai and Apple Inc's Tim Cook - whose companies together represent about $5 trillion of market value - parried a range of accusations from lawmakers via videoconference before the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel.

Video Transcript

DAVID CICILLINE: In fact, we've heard from third-party sellers again and again during the course of investigation that Amazon is the only game in town. Here's how the apparel company described working with Amazon. And I quote. "Amazon strings you along for a while because it feels so good to get that paycheck every week. And in the past, for lack of a better term, we called it Amazon heroin, because you just kept going, and you had to get your next fix, your next check. But at the end of the day, you find out that this person who is seemingly benefiting you, making you feel good, was just ultimately going to be your downfall." End quote. So Mr. Bezos, this is one of your partners. Why on Earth would they compare your company to a drug dealer?

JEFF BEZOS: Sir, I have great respect for you and this committee, but I completely disagree with that characterization. What we have done is create in the store a place-- if you go back in time, we sold only our own inventory. It was a very controversial decision inside the company to invite third-party sellers to come into what is really our most valuable retail real estate, our product detail pages. We did that because we were convinced that it would be better for the consumer. It would be better for the customer--

DAVID CICILLINE: Mr. Bezos--

JEFF BEZOS: --to have all--

DAVID CICILLINE: This is a--

JEFF BEZOS: --of that selection. And I think we were right--

DAVID CICILLINE: Yeah--

JEFF BEZOS: --and I think it's worked out--

DAVID CICILLINE: Reclaiming my time--

JEFF BEZOS: --well for third-party--

DAVID CICILLINE: --unfortunately, this is one of--

JEFF BEZOS: --sellers and for--

DAVID CICILLINE: Reclaiming my time, Mr. Bezos.

Shouldn't third parties know for sure that data isn't being shared with your online their competitors? Why should a third-party seller list their product on Amazon if they're just going to be undercut by Amazon own product as a result of data you take from them?

JEFF BEZOS: Sir, I think what I want you to understand and I think it's important to understand is that we have a policy against using individual seller data to compete with our private label products.

DAVID CICILLINE: You couldn't assure Ms. Jayapal that that policy isn't violated routinely.

JEFF BEZOS: Well, and we are investigating that. And I do not want to sit here, and I do not want to go beyond what I know right now, but we are, as a result of that Wall Street Journal article, we are looking at that very carefully.

DAVID CICILLINE: Thank you, Mr. Bezos.

JEFF BEZOS: And we look at this fact--

DAVID CICILLINE: You're having this--

JEFF BEZOS: --and then we'll surely share them with you.

DAVID CICILLINE: Thank you, and we look forward to that. The evidence we've collected shows that Amazon is only interested in exploiting its monopoly power over the e-commerce marketplace to further expand and protect this power. This investigation makes clear that Amazon's dual role as a platform operator and competing seller on that platform is fundamentally anti-competitive, and Congress must take action. And with that, I recognize the gentleman from Wisconsin.