Skip to main content

Bezos had few answers for Congress — and it won’t matter

In his first time before Congress on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos faced pointed questions about his company’s business practices — and had few, if any, answers.

At times seeming flustered or unprepared, Bezos demurred, deflected, and deferred questions from lawmakers, claiming he didn’t know specifics about the basic way in which his company works.

If he were testifying on his own, he might have been forced to face intense scrutiny, but surrounded by his fellow Big Tech CEOs at Congress’ hearing, Bezos got off easy. Wednesday’s unfocused hearing gave the billionaire the perfect opportunity to skate by — and he took it.

Bezos was called before the House Judiciary Committee after a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed Amazon was using third-party seller data to undercut its own sellers. Amazon reportedly used that information to create rival products to outperform its so-called partners.

That flew in the face of previous testimony by an Amazon representative last year, who told Congress that Amazon wouldn’t use data to undermine its third-party sellers.

But when pressed by lawmakers to answer yes or no if Amazon used data to battle its third-party partners, Bezos couldn’t answer. He said Amazon was still investigating the report — which was published three months ago.

“We continue to look into that very carefully,” he said. “I’m not yet satisfied we’ve gotten to the bottom of it and we’re going to keep looking at it.”

Bezos said the company had a policy against such a practice … but also said he “can’t guarantee” the policy was never violated.

As lawmakers paraded forward allegations from third-party sellers that Amazon undercut their business — like a textbook seller who said Amazon muscled the company out of their marketplace — Bezos said they didn’t represent a broader trend at the e-commerce giant.

It wasn’t just third-party sellers where Bezos dodged. When asked if Alexa pushed Amazon products over other brands, Bezos said: “It wouldn’t surprise me if Alexa sometimes does promote our own products.” But again, he wouldn’t confirm it.

He couldn’t explain which goods Amazon deemed essential during pandemic-related restrictions earlier this year and whether Amazon kept its own products flowing as competitors were blocked from selling.

He didn’t know what Amazon required of sellers. Real names? Addresses? Phone numbers? He couldn’t be sure. And Bezos couldn’t say how Amazon would verify sellers’ information that they did require.

As Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg cooly deflected away questions, Bezos floundered.

But Bezos barely felt the heat. Since all four Big Tech CEOs were present for the same hearing, lawmakers were forced to bounce around from topic to topic, witness to witness.

Sure, Bezos did little to answer the questions swirling around Amazon’s alleged anti-competitive practices, but the House committee members rarely pressured him.

As Congress debates whether to regulate or even break up the tech giants, it’s unlikely Wednesday’s hearing did much to change anyone’s mind.

Bezos’s dodges kept him from digging Amazon into any deeper trouble. Perhaps that was a good enough win for Amazon.

Paul Squire
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paul is the News Editor at Digital Trends. Before joining DT, Paul spent 3 years as an editor on the New York Post's digital…
Skype now supports 911 calls in the U.S.
iPhone with the Skype mobile app loading screen.

Skype has updated its mobile and desktop apps to allow emergency calling in the U.S. for the first time in its 18-year history. Calls to 911 are also possible via Skype’s web-based service, notes for the recently released Skype 8.80 showed.

Emergency calling from Skype could come in handy if you find yourself in a tricky situation without a phone but have a computer close by, or if phone lines are down but you can get online.

Read more
The Interplanetary File System: How you’ll store files in the future
Cloud storage for downloading an isometric. A digital service or application with data transmission. Network computing technologies. Futuristic Server. Digital space. Data storage. Vector illustration.

When you upload a file or send a tweet, your information is stashed in some corporation-owned mega data center in the middle of nowhere. The endless racks of computers in these facilities hold millions of ledgers, and with a flick of a switch, companies can censor or misuse the data.

But what if instead of handing it to, say Amazon or Google, your data is broken down into pieces and scattered across the globe so that no one except you and your key -- not even the government -- can access it?

Read more
The best hurricane trackers for Android and iOS in 2022
Truck caught in gale force winds.

Hurricane season strikes fear into the hearts of those who live in its direct path, as well as distanced loved ones who worry for their safety. If you've ever sat up all night in a state of panic for a family member caught home alone in the middle of a destructive storm, dependent only on intermittent live TV reports for updates, a hurricane tracker app is a must-have tool. There are plenty of hurricane trackers that can help you prepare for these perilous events, monitor their progress while underway, and assist in recovery. We've gathered the best apps for following storms, predicting storm paths, and delivering on-the-ground advice for shelter and emergency services. Most are free to download and are ad-supported. Premium versions remove ads and add additional features.

You may lose power during a storm, so consider purchasing a portable power source,  just in case. We have a few handy suggestions for some of the best portable generators and power stations available. 

Read more