One of Amazon’s first-ever employees, who was part of the founding team that set up the company in 1994, has said he supports the idea of splitting the company up.
Paul Davis, a former computer programmer and the second employee that CEO Jeff Bezos ever hired, made the comments in an interview with Recode on Friday.
The former Amazon technical staff member said he believes Amazon should separate from Amazon Marketplace, which allows customers to purchase items from millions of individual sellers.
“There’s clearly a public good to have something that functions like the Amazon Marketplace,” he said.
“If this didn’t exist, you’d want it to be built. What’s not valuable, and what’s not good is that the company that operates the marketplace is also a retailer. They have complete access to every single piece of data and can use that to shape their own retail marketplace.”
It comes after allegations that the multinational technology company is exploiting some merchants by using data from its third-party sellers to identify which products are best sellers and then selling those brands itself or creating its own private label products through similar means.
The technology giant is currently the subject in Europe of an antitrust investigation by the EU’s Competition Commission over its alleged practices. The commission is looking into Amazon’s agreements with marketplace sellers and assessing whether the use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on its marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.
It also being investigated by the U.S. House of Representatives (pdf) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over its alleged anti-competitive practices. The antitrust regulators have also expanded their scrutiny of Amazon beyond its retail operations to cloud computing operations.
Amazon has denied the allegations, telling regulators in November that it uses only “aggregated data” from its third-party sellers to help improve its overall business and that date on individual sellers is not used to launch, source, or price it’s own branded products.
“They’re not breaking any agreements. They’re just violating what most people would assume was how this is going to work: ‘I sell stuff though your system [and] you’re not going to steal our sales,’” Davis said.
Last week, Davis, who now writes open source software for recording and editing audio, posted an online comment regarding a New York Times article on Amazon.
The report included more than 60 interviews with current and former employees, sellers, suppliers, and consultants who alleged that the retailer “squeezes” businesses for more money and punishes them if their items are available for even a “penny less elsewhere.”
“For nearly two decades, Amazon has used its control of its marketplace to strengthen its own hand as a retailer. This should not be allowed to continue,” he wrote.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also called for an Amazon breakup, in an article for Medium.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”
“I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor,” she added.
Like most retailers, Amazon monitors overall sales. Amazon provides information about the popularity of each product they have in stores for everyone to see.
The Epoch Times reached out to Amazon for comment and received the following reply:
“Sellers are responsible for nearly 60% of sales in our stores. They are incredibly important to us and our customers and we invest billions of dollars—from infrastructure to tools, services, and features—to help them succeed. Amazon only succeeds when sellers succeed and claims to the contrary are wrong. Sellers have full control of their business and make the decisions that are best for them, including the products they choose to sell, pricing, and how they choose to fulfill orders.”