The Federal Trade Commission is preparing a potential antitrust lawsuit against Amazon that targets multiple business practices, including the bundling practices it uses with its Prime subscription services.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the timing of any case “remains in flux,” and said the agency could decide not to bring the case. It noted that Amazon officials haven’t met with FTC commissioners to argue against a legal challenge, a step that would be expected.
The Biden administration has sharpened its antitrust tools across both the FTC and the Justice Department. DOJ filed a case last week in federal court that seeks to end Google’s dominance of online advertising, Bloomberg reported.
The administration’s antitrust push has also suffered setbacks in the past six months, including losing efforts to block mergers in several industries. The FTC has a pending case over Microsoft‘s planned $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. A separate case against Meta’s Facebook filed in 2020 accuses it of buying small startups to choke competition.
The Journal reported that one danger for Amazon is that the chair of the FTC, Lina Khan, has made her name arguing that tech giants have too much power, in particular with a widely read paper targeting Amazon. Amazon has petitioned that Khan recuse herself from any probes of the company because of her background, but the Journal reported that the agency rejected a similar argument by Microsoft.
It also noted that the FTC’s investigation of Amazon began under President Donald Trump.
Prior to taking over the FTC, Khan worked for congressional panel that in 2020 issued a 449-page report examining Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta’s anticompetitive behaviors. The probe found that Amazon had “monopoly power” over sellers on its site, bullied retail partners and improperly used seller data to compete with rivals, the Journal reported.
Amazon responded by stating regulations that forced changes to its operations could hurt both customers and small sellers. “All large organizations attract the attention of regulators, and we welcome that scrutiny,” it said, according to the Journal. “But large companies are not dominant by definition, and the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behavior is simply wrong.”
Amazon shares fell 4.74, or 4.2%, to $108.17 in midday trading Friday as the broader markets remained basically flat. The company posted mixed results after the markets closed Thursday, with some investors seeing signs of an economic slowdown in its numbers.