Amazon's Price Check Promotion: Anti-Small Business?

Small businesses across the country are calling foul on Amazon's new Price Check app.

The app, which the online retail giant launched on Saturday, allows shoppers to compare prices on items in a brick-and-mortar store with its own prices. Critics claim the app encourages people to visit small businesses to gather price and product information but not buy.

The app allows shoppers to look up Amazon’s prices by scanning products at a store using a smartphone. To lure people to try the app, Amazon offered consumers a 5% discount of up to $5 on certain items just on Saturday. Even before the promotion started, one lawmaker urged the company to cancel it—calling it anti-small business.

“Paying consumers to visit small businesses and leave empty-handed - is an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities. Small businesses are fighting everyday to compete with giant retailers, such as Amazon, and incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far," Sen. Olympia Snowe, (R-Maine), said in a statement about the promotion.

This shopping season is often the biggest revenue drive for small businesses, but it can be difficult for them to match discounts provided by the blockbuster retailers.

Kevan Chapman, senior media manager for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said that the app is Amazon’s attempt to capture more consumer demand. He called the timing of the app’s launch “unfortunate,” but said it is part of an evolving marketplace—after all, price comparison apps are nothing new—they’ve been on the market for nearly two years.

How small businesses respond to the competition will determine their survival.

"The focus is that small businesses provide a fairly unique place for people to go and shop," Chapman said. "People generally trust the small businesses they go to—they are members of the community. And the level of service they provide, you can't compete with that at an online shop like Amazon."

Amazon did respond to e-mails/calls requesting comment.