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California Sues Amazon for Antitrust Violations

Amazon has been accused of antitrust violations due to their wholesale policies 

The office of the California attorney general, Rob Bonta, stated in the Amazon antitrust lawsuit how the company employed contract provisions to prevent sellers from offering lower prices for products on non-Amazon sites. This extended even to the sellers’ own websites, preventing other retailers from competing.

Amazon removed the ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ buttons on product listing pages, displayed items lower or less prominently, and blocked new postings.  Due to Amazon’s near-Monopoly in the online retailer space, sellers would have to sell their products at higher prices on other sites or lose risking their business on Amazon.

The average Amazon seller would technically be better on Amazon’s good side than on their bad one, and many sellers complained about these practices throughout the years. Some users, mostly online sellers directly affected by the situation, have expressed satisfaction upon seeing the measures taken against Amazon.

As explained by Bonta in a statement, Amazon practically coerces merchants into agreements that keep prices artificially high, knowing that they can’t afford to say no to them. 

The complaint mentions that Amazon coerces wholesalers into agreements that penalize them if Amazon lowers its prices to match competitors, or if their profit margin falls below a stated minimum.

Amazon Parcels
@ Amazon

Despite Amazon’s claims that sellers set their own prices on the platform, they have also stated how they have the right to avoid highlighting products that aren’t priced competitively. 

The main purpose of the lawsuit seeks to stop Amazon from getting into contracts with sellers that would harm price competition, and also seeks a court order to motivate Amazon to reimburse damages to the state for their increased prices, with no further information on how much money they are seeking.

A similar lawsuit was filed by Washington, D.C. against Amazon in May 2021. They won dismissal of it the lawsuit earlier this year, but California’s lawsuit is based on different laws. They can’t agree to offer lower prices on Walmart, Target, eBay, or even their own websites. 

There are over 200 million users are Prime members, and Amazon is currently the world’s largest online retailer and grew even bigger during the pandemic.

California’s lawsuit wants to ban Amazon from entering into anticompetitive practices contracts that hurt competitor prices.

In a statement for CNN, the California Attorney General has it backward, and sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in-store. The relief the Attorney General seeks would force Amazon to set higher prices for customers, going against the core objectives of antitrust law.

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Amazon to Ban Words Like ‘Union’ and ‘Restroom’ on New Chat App 

The Pilot Programme is Set to Launch This Month

Amazon reportedly has plans to release an internal messaging app for its workers that would automatically flag employee posts and block a variety of keywords and terms surrounding working conditions, employee grievances and unions. According to company documents seen by The Intercept, words such as ‘union,’ ‘pay rise,’ ‘slave labour,’ ‘living wage,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘injustice’ and even ‘restrooms’ would be flagged by the app.

Set to be released as a pilot program at the end of April, the app was first discussed by high-level Amazon executives in November 2021 as part of a wider plan to “reduce employee attrition by fostering happiness and productivity among workers,” said David Clarke, Amazon’s Head of Worldwide Consumer Business. The app, which would operate as an employee-only social media platform, would allow users to post ‘Shout-Outs’ to celebrate fellow employees’ performance. Employees would also receive stars and badges for good performance. 

Amazon associates have come forward to say that it’s not yet been decided if all the listed words would be blocked by the app, but that the app’s auto-flagging mechanism would be implemented to prevent users from sending inappropriate messages, to “fight the bad side of social media” and ensure the platform provided a positive experience for its users. 

“If it does launch at some point down the road, there are no plans for many of the words called out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team,” said Amazon spokesperson, Barbara M. Agrait. 

Amazon Press ImageAmazon has come under serious fire for its alleged poor treatment of employees. Some have even speculated that the banning of the word ‘restroom’ is due to reports of Amazon employees being unable to use the bathroom and instead urinating in plastic bottles to meet tough daily quotas. 

The company has also been notoriously anti-union, aggressively fighting the formation of employee unions in both the United States and abroad. On April 1st, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, made history by winning the battle to form the first Amazon union in the United States. 

This was a major win for workers and a huge defeat for the technology giant. Union organisers have reported that fellow employees at over 50 different Amazon warehouse locations have approached them for advice regarding the formation of their own unions. 

Amazon fought hard to stop the formation of the union, launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to halt employees’ efforts. The e-commerce conglomerate is currently seeking to overturn the win and redo the election, citing that organisers acted in a way which tainted election results. Currently, no Amazon warehouses in the United Kingdom have unionised. However, no laws are preventing them from doing so. 

If the release of the new app goes ahead with such vigorous censorship as has been reported, likely, Amazon will further escalate employee attrition and the very issues they are attempting to eradicate.