Amazon facing probe by US antitrust officials over marketplace

A team of Federal Trade Commission officials have been interviewing small businesses that sell their products on Amazon to determine whether the e-commerce behemoth is using its marketplace to hurt competition.

Bloomberg News, which first reported the story, reported that at least three attorneys and at least one economist have been conducting interviews that typically last about 90 minutes and cover a range of topics, including what percentage of revenue their businesses derive from Amazon versus other marketplaces like Walmart and eBay.

Amazon did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment. The FTC, which does not generally comment on investigations (or the existence of investigations), declined to comment.

However, an Amazon official directed Bloomberg to a statement from Amazon Consumer Business chief Jeff Wilke, who was asked in June about reports the FTC was looking into Amazon.

”We believe that most substantial entities in the economy deserve scrutiny,” he said. “Our job is to build the kind of company that passes that scrutiny with flying colors.”

Jaivin Karnani, a suspended Amazon merchant, told Fox Business he spoke with the FTC - five attorneys and one economist - on Aug. 23 for about 90 minutes. Karnani said the group asked him about Amazon's suspension policy and the percent of revenue his business receives from other platforms.

The interviews suggest the federal agency is in the early stages of a sprawling probe into Amazon’s business practices to determine whether the company is breaking the law, Bloomberg reported.

In June, U.S. regulators struck a deal that placed Amazon under closer watch by the FTC, The Washington Post reported. The country’s leading antitrust enforcement agencies agreed to divvy up competition oversight of Google, placing it under the Justice Department’s watch, and Amazon -- a move that generally precedes increased antitrust scrutiny.

The report comes amid separate antitrust investigations into Facebook and Google, as lawmakers across the political aisle question whether big tech needs to be broken up. In July, Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine for privacy violations.

The DOJ, at the end of July, opened a sweeping investigation into big tech to determine whether their online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise hurt consumers.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” DOJ antitrust head Makan Delrahim said in a statement at the time. “The department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”