Mar 11, 2019

Amazon to end price practice critics said could violate antitrust law

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25

Amazon will no longer tell third-party merchants that sell products on its platform in the United States that they cannot offer the same goods for a lower price on another website, according to a person with direct knowledge of the company's decision.

Why it matters: Critics have said the so-called "most favored nation," or "price parity," provisions could violate antitrust law. But even without them, the company still faces a broader set of attacks on its size and power in the United States and around the world.

Flashback: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in December asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the requirements for possible antitrust violations late last year.

  • Blumenthal said he was concerned that they could "stifle market competition and artificially inflate prices on consumer goods."
  • His request followed a May law review article that found that the most favored nation requirements "employed by online platforms can harm competition by keeping prices high and discouraging entry" in many cases.
  • Amazon dropped the requirement for merchants on its platform in Europe under regulatory pressure in 2013.

What they're saying: "Amazon’s wise and welcome decision comes only after aggressive advocacy and attention that compelled Amazon to abandon its abusive contract clause," Blumenthal said, while issuing a wider call for antitrust investigations into large tech companies.

  • Amazon declined to comment on the change.

The big picture: Amazon has become a symbol for progressives of the ill effects of corporate power in an age of increasing consolidation. Last week, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Congress should pass a law banning large companies from operating and owning participants on the same online platform.

  • That proposal would make it impossible for Amazon to sell its house brand products, like the popular AmazonBasics batteries, that critics say hurt other brands that sell on its platform.

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In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Venice Beach in Los Angeles on May 24. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks against the coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Driving the news: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, authorities on Florida's Gulf Coast closed parking lots because they were full and there were crowded scenes at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri, per AP, which reports a shooting injured several people at a packed Daytona Beach in Florida.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,405,029 — Total deaths: 344,997 — Total recoveries — 2,168,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,642,021 — Total deaths: 97,698 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans sue California over mail-out ballot plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom during a February news conference in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump accused Democrats of trying "Rig" November's general election as Republican groups filed a lawsuit against California Sunday in an attempt to stop Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to all registered voters.

Driving the news: Newsom signed an executive order this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that all registered voters in the state receive a mail-in ballot.