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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.

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.