Amazon loses effort to exclude Gacy and Bezos from testimony in FTC Prime investigation

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos arrives to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the British diplomatic headquarters on September 20, 2021 in New York City.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission late Wednesday rejected Amazon’s attempt to exclude CEO Andy Gacy and founder Jeff Bezos from testifying in an investigation into the retail giant’s Prime program.

In an order written by Republican Commissioner Kristen Wilson and posted on the FTC’s website, the agency ruled that Amazon had not sufficiently demonstrated that its executive certification schedule would be an undue burden. However, the agency allowed more time to prepare before giving their testimony.

“Amazon provides no reason for the Commission to accept anything less than all relevant testimony it may obtain from these two witnesses,” the order said.

Amazon filed a complaint in the August filing, claiming that the FTC’s demands for information and testimony from top executives were too loose and onerous. Amazon even accused FTC employees of harassing Bezos and Gacy for their participation.

Amazon said the Federal Trade Commission “aggravated matters” when it informed the company in June that the agency was expanding its investigation to other subscription programs, including Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited and Subscribe & Save, according to an August filing. .

The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Amazon Prime registrations and cancellations since March 2021. The agency is studying whether Amazon is deceiving users into signing up for Prime, while failing to provide a simple way to cancel and avoid recurring fees.

The Prime subscription program, which costs $139 a year and includes perks like free shipping, now has about 200 million subscribers worldwide.

Amazon said last month that it has complied with the FTC’s requests so far, and has produced about 37,000 pages of documents.

Amazon has entered into a difficult relationship with the Federal Trade Commission under Lina Khan, who rose to prominence as a law student when she published “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” in the Yale Law Journal in 2017. The company has asked Khan to step down from antitrust investigations into its business, citing its previous criticisms of its strength.

Amazon has secured some concessions from the Federal Trade Commission, such as limits on “blanket” requests for information, which the commission said it would amend. The FTC has also established a protocol for scheduling future hearings and has made it clear that witnesses should largely be allowed to choose their attorney, except for some disputes.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that the FTC has largely declined to rule against itself, but we are pleased that the agency has gone on to support its broader requests and will allow witnesses to choose their attorney,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “Amazon cooperated with the FTC during the investigation and has already produced tens of thousands of pages of documents. We are committed to engaging constructively with FTC employees, but we remain concerned that the recent requests are too broad and unnecessarily onerous, and we will explore all of our options.”

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