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On Capitol Hill, an anonymous bookseller called out Amazon.

Aaron Robertson

July 30, 2020, 3:54pm

If you tuned into yesterday’s historic House Judiciary Subcommittee antitrust hearing, during which the top executives of some of the world’s largest tech companies tried convincing politicians that they weren’t monopolies, you may have heard a bookseller chime in during Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s questioning.

Unfortunately for companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, “Big Tech” has been a bipartisan target for a while now, albeit for different reasons. Yesterday, it looked like executives Mark Zuckerburg, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and Sundar Pichai may have had their Big Tobacco moment, and time well tell whether technology companies will face new regulatory measures.

If Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath’s questions for Bezos were a measure of things to come, however, it’s not looking so hot for the League of Anti-Regulators (I had to look this up to make sure it wasn’t a real thing because 2020).

For the past year, the subcommittee has been speaking with small businesses and third-party sellers to learn about their relationships with larger corporations like Amazon. McBath played the testimony of one anonymous woman, a bookseller who worked with Amazon, to illustrate what has often been described as an Amazon bullying tactic.

The woman described her company as an initially successful enterprise that received steadily positive reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, fed 14 people. “As we grew,” the bookseller said, “we were shrinking Amazon’s market share in the textbooks category.”

As a result of the third-party seller’s success, the bookseller claimed, Amazon began restricting what they could sell in early 2019. Within six months, “Amazon systematically blocked us from selling [in] the full textbook category.” The business reportedly had not been able to make a sale for the better part of a year. Despite sending 500 messages to Amazon, the small business didn’t receive a substantive response.

You can listen to Bezos’s actual response in the clip above, but it essentially amounted to: “She and I should talk! Wow, I didn’t know. That was totally an exception, not the rule. Actually, I’m not even sure I understood what happened. Congresswoman, help me understand. Help.”

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