Amazon copied products and manipulated search results in India, report says

Ben Fox Rubin / CNET

Amazon’s private label team in India has carried out a “systematic campaign of creating counterfeit products and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines,” according to a report released by Reuters on Wednesday.

Employees used internal data to copy products sold by other companies on the platform in India, Reuters said, citing “thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents.” They also allegedly rigged the search results so that the company’s private label products appeared in the top two or three product listings. Two Amazon executives have examined India’s strategy, according to Reuters.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company believed the claims were “factually incorrect and unfounded,” adding that Amazon strictly prohibited “the use or sharing of non-public and seller-specific data for the benefit of any seller, including private label sellers “. The spokesperson also said that Amazon displays search results based on the relevance of a customer’s search query and does not promote its own private label products.

Along with claims that Amazon is copying products from its own merchants, the company faces broader authenticity issues. Counterfeit and banned products have persisted in the Amazon marketplace, like the FDA-banned infant sleeping wedges which the agency says have caused suffocation deaths. In addition, Amazon has banned several merchants from creating a buzz in offer refunds to customers in exchange for positive reviews in violation of company policies. The company has acknowledged that this problem persists.

Amazon has previously denied accusations use the data of third-party sellers to develop and sell own products, which were detailed in an April 2020 Wall Street Journal report. In July 2020, Jeff Bezos, then CEO of Amazon, told Congress that the company prohibits the use of seller-specific data to help his private label business. In March 2021, the bag manufacturer Peak Design called Amazon for copying its Everyday Sling product, previously sold on the e-commerce giant’s online marketplace, with its own Amazon Basic Everyday Sling bag.

The company faces increased regulation in this area if a bill proposed in June becomes law. The American Choice and Innovation Online Act would allow an online shopping platform to use internal merchant data to support its own offerings in one marketplace or to favor its own products over those of another merchant. competitor on the same platform. The bill has been the subject of markup in the House Judiciary Committee, but is currently not scheduled for a vote by the entire House of Representatives.

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