The Federal Trade Commission made its big move against online shopping giant Amazon on Tuesday, accusing the company of illegally stifling competition on its way to becoming a ubiquitous retail presence and one of the world’s most valuable companies.
Attorneys general from 17 states joined the FTC in the lawsuit, alleging that Amazon leverages a “set of interlocking anticompetitive and unfair strategies” to maintain a monopoly. The states that signed onto the FTC’s action are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
“The complaint sets forth detailed allegations noting how Amazon is now exploiting its monopoly power to enrich itself while raising prices and degrading service for the tens of millions of American families who shop on its platform and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on Amazon to reach them,” FTC Chair Lina M. Khan said. “Today’s lawsuit seeks to hold Amazon to account for these monopolistic practices and restore the lost promise of free and fair competition.”
Amazon predictably pushed back against the FTC’s allegations, which could amount to an existential threat to the company’s market dominance.
“If the FTC gets its way, the result would be fewer products to choose from, higher prices, slower deliveries for consumers and reduced options for small businesses — the opposite of what antitrust law is designed to do,” Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky said. “The lawsuit filed by the FTC today is wrong on the facts and the law, and we look forward to making that case in court.”
The FTC and its state partners allege that Amazon has violated antitrust law in two distinct areas: its vast online storefront for shoppers and its seller-side marketplace. Amazon’s practice of punishing sellers that offer lower prices away from Amazon and its strategy of aggressively funneling sellers toward obtaining Prime status for their goods are among the anti-competitive tactics the FTC named in the lawsuit.
“Amazon is a monopolist that uses its power to hike prices on American shoppers and charge sky-high fees on hundreds of thousands of online sellers,” Deputy Director of the FTC Bureau of Competition John Newman said. “Seldom in the history of U.S. antitrust law has one case had the potential to do so much good for so many people.”