Amazon under fire from the FTC and Bernie Sanders

One of the best appointments that Joe Biden made is that of Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission. She is a vigorous enforcer of anti-trust laws and unfair trade practices and the FTC has just announced a new lawsuit against the company for unfair practices after winning another lawsuit.

The FTC, the US agency charged with consumer protection, filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered, alleging that the tech behemoth “ knowingly duped millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling in Amazon Prime” through a secret project internally called “Iliad”.

The lawsuit marks the first time the agency has brought Amazon to court since its chair, Lina Khan, took the helm in 2021. Khan, a former antitrust scholar, has been widely expected to take a harder line on tech firms that have for years enjoyed unabated growth and little regulation.

In its complaint, the FTC said Amazon used “manipulative, coercive or deceptive user-interface designs known as ‘dark patterns’ to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically renewing Prime subscriptions”.

It said the option to purchase items on Amazon without subscribing to Prime was more difficult in many cases. It also said that consumers were sometimes presented with a button to complete their transactions – which did not clearly state it would also enroll them into Prime.

The FTC said that “one of Amazon’s primary business goals – and the primary business goal of Prime – is increasing subscriber numbers”. Antitrust advocates and big tech watchdogs applauded the move and called for more action against the e-commerce giant.

“Amazon’s monopoly over online shopping has resulted in a race to the bottom for the rest of us – violating our privacy, scamming us into keeping Prime memberships, and blocking us from even seeing the best available products,” said Kyle Morse, deputy executive director of the Tech Oversight Project, a non-profit watchdog organization. “Jeff Bezos and Amazon represent the very worst of big tech, and their contempt for their customers is glaringly obvious in how they conduct business.”

The lawsuit follows another Amazon-related win by the FTC just a few weeks ago. Earlier this month, Amazon agreed to pay a $25m civil penalty to settle allegations it violated a child privacy law for storing kids’ voice and location data recorded by its popular Alexa voice assistant. It also agreed to pay $5.8m in customer refunds for alleged privacy violations involving its doorbell camera Ring.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, chair of the influential Senate committee on health, education, labor and pension (HELP), has launched an investigation into the working conditions at the company.

In a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the 81-year-old US senator from Vermont and chair of the influential Senate committee on health, education, labor and pension (Help) demanded information about “systematically underreported” injury rates, turnover, productivity targets, and adherence to federal and state safety guidelines at the e-commerce giant.

Sanders’s letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, described conditions at Amazon’s warehouses as “uniquely dangerous” and pointed to a report that found the company’s serious injury rate in 2021 was double the warehouse industry average in 2021.

The initiation of an investigation into workplace health and safety practices at Amazon comes amid a vigorous opposition against unionization efforts by company employees and data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that Amazon warehouse jobs can be more dangerous than at comparable companies.

Over the past year, Amazon has opposed union organizing campaigns, resisted charges of unfair labor practices filed by workers and spent over $14.2m on anti-union consultants in 2022.

“It’s one of the companies that really talks about a big game about how good they treat their workers, and yet, when you actually talk to workers, it’s the total opposite,” Aliss Lugo, an organizer in Georgia with United for Respect at Amazon, told the Guardian in April.

“Amazon sets an example for the rest of the country,” Sanders said. “What Amazon does, their attitude, their lack of respect for workers permeates the American corporate world.”

Sharp criticisms by Sanders and others had resulted in Amazon raising its base hourly pay rate to $15 in 2018.

Amazon epitomizes the danger of monopoly capitalism and the greed that results in squeezing workers in order to increase its already large profit margins. It has a pernicious effect on both workers and consumers.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    Amazon repeatedly exploits and abuses its workers.
    Amazon repeatedly exploits and abuses its suppliers.
    OF COURSE Amazon exploits and abuses its customers.

  2. moonslicer says

    It was several years ago that I discovered that it is possible to order goods on-line without using Amazon. I very rarely use them any more, only in cases where I can’t find what I’m looking for elsewhere.

  3. Holms says

    Earlier this month, Amazon agreed to pay a $25m civil penalty … It also agreed to pay $5.8m

    $30,800,000 : Amazon :: the change under a single couch cushion : us.

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