Elizabeth Warren rails against Amazon in series of tweets

Democratic 2020 presidential hopeful and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sparred with Amazon on Tuesday evening in a series of tweets, one day after a publicized town hall in which she reiterated her support for breaking up the world’s largest online retailer.

“When Amazon can tilt the online marketplace in its own favor, small businesses see an immediate impact in their profits,” she wrote in a tweet. “That can be absolutely crushing, it's not fair, and I’m fighting to end that.”

Warren, a fierce advocate for consumer protection, accused Amazon during the town hall of using the data it collects on sellers and buyers to identify and create new private label products. Warren argued that Amazon then uses its status as an e-commerce behemoth to elevate its own products above those of third parties.

The firebrand Democrat also said that Amazon captures about 49 percent of U.S. online retail sales, while Walmart is responsible for 9 percent of all retail sales in the U.S.

But Amazon fired back against Warren the same evening, arguing that it doesn’t use individual sellers’ data to launch private label products which it claimed accounted for about 1 percent of sales.

“And sellers aren’t being ‘knocked out’ – they’re seeing record sales every year. Also, Walmart is much larger; Amazon is less than 4% of U.S. retail,” Amazon wrote in a rare public rebuke.

Warren, however, pointed to analysis from SunTrust that projected Amazon’s private label business could see revenues of $25 billion by 2022 which could ultimately send shares up by more than 21 percent over the next year.

“Private label is one of the highly under appreciated trends within Amazon, in our view, which over time should give the company a strong … competitive advantage,” the analysis said.

Warren went on to cite a report from Techcrunch that said Amazon was set to clear $258.22 billion in U.S. retail sales in 2018, which would work out to 49.1 percent of all online retail spent in the country, and 5 percent of all retail sales.

“I said that Amazon was about 49% of all online retail sales,” she said. “And yes, you are. What an odd thing to deliberately misconstrue.”

Since launching her presidential bid, Warren has ramped up criticism of big technology companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google. At the beginning of March, she unveiled a proposal to curb the power of tech companies, including calling for Amazon’s various businesses to operate as separate entities.

At the time, she likened Amazon’s business practices to a baseball game in which it operates as both player and referee by “sucking out an incredible amount of information about every buyer and seller,” and then using that same data to sell its own products through Amazon.

“You can be an umpire – a platform – or you can own teams,” Warren said.  “But you can’t be an umpire and own one of the teams that’s in the game.”