Tag Archives: amazon

The European Commission Opened Investigation About Amazon



The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “European consumers are increasingly shopping online. E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”

The Commission will look into:

  • The standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers, which allow Amazon’s retail business to analyze and use third party seller data. In particular, the Commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.
  • The role of the data in the selection of the winners of the “Buy Box” and the impact of Amazon’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection. The “Buy Box” is displayed prominently on Amazon and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the “Buy Box” seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it.

The Commission states that there is no legal deadline for bringing and antitrust investigation to an end, and that it has informed Amazon and the competition authorities of Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.

The Verge reported that the antitrust announcement happened on the same day that Amazon announced changes to its third-party seller service agreement in response to a separate antitrust investigation by German regulators.

It appears that we won’t know how the European Commission’s antitrust investigation will affect Amazon until the investigation ends. It is unclear how Amazon’s changes, made to appease German regulators, will affect the European Commission’s ruling.


Amazon and Google Announce Official YouTube App to Launch on Fire TV



Amazon and Google announced that in the coming months, the two companies will launch the official YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs, as well as the Prime Video app for streaming to Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices.

In addition, Prime Video will be broadly available across Android TV device partners, and the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids app will also come to Fire TV later this year.

The flagship YouTube app will be the easiest way for users to watch all of their favorite YouTube content on Fire TV. Users will be able to sign in to their existing YouTube account, access their full library of content, and play videos in 4K HDR at 60 fps on supported devices. In addition, standalone YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also launch later this year on Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs where available.

Chromecast and Chromecast built-in users, along with Android TV users, will have easy access to the Prime Video catalog including the latest seasons of Amazon Originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hanna, Homecoming Beach, Catastrophe and The Grand Tour, along with Amazon Original movies like Donald Glover’s Guava Island, and Academy Award nominated films like The Big Sick and Cold War.

Engadget points out that this ends “a long contentious relationship between Amazon and Google.” According to Engadget, the addition of YouTube apps only applies to Fire TV devices.


Elizabeth Warren Wants to Break Up Tech Industry Giants



Senator Elizabeth Warren said that if she is elected president in 2020, her administration will break up the giants of the tech industry. This was announced at SXSW in Austin, and in a detailed post on Medium. In that post, Senator Warren mentioned Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

Senator Warren’s plan would classify any company that runs a marketplace and makes more than $25 billion a year in revenue as a “platform utility”, and will prohibit those companies from using those platforms to selling their own products.

The Verge interviewed Senator Warren. Her plan includes Apple – which was not mentioned in the Medium post. Senator Warren wants to break Apple apart from their App Store. As far as I can tell, the plan also calls for Google to split from Google Play. Personally, I’d like to see more specific information from Senator Warren about how that change will affect how apps are distributed.

In part of the interview, Senator Warren said:

The problem is that’s not competition. That’s just using market dominance, not because they had a better product or because they were somehow more customer-friendly or in a better place. It’s just using market dominance. So, my principle is exactly the same: what was applied to the railroad companies more than a hundred years ago, we need to now look at those tech platforms the same way.

In short, the plan would prevent Amazon from selling Amazon Basics products on the Amazon retail store. It would stop Google from promoting its own products in Google Search. And, it would require Facebook to split apart from Instagram and Whatsapp. It is a strong push for antitrust enforcement of an industry that has been untouched by those laws.

Personally, I would like to see Facebook and Instagram split apart. I’m not a fan of Facebook (and stopped using it years ago). Instagram brings me joy, but I am conflicted about continuing to use it because it belongs to Facebook. I’d also like to see YouTube separated from Google.


Amazon had a Record-Breaking Holiday Season



How many items did you purchase from Amazon as gifts for friends and family this holiday season? All those purchases add up. Amazon announced a record-breaking holiday season thanks to its customers all around the world, with more items ordered worldwide than ever before.

In a press release, Amazon revealed some interesting data about what people bought. It also included information, that I personally find to be sort of creepy, about how people used Alexa this holiday season.

  • Customers purchased millions more Amazon Devices this holiday season compared to last year – the best-selling Amazon Devices this holiday included all-new Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K with all-new Alexa Voice Remote, and Echo.
  • It was a record holiday season for Amazon’s Kids Edition devices; customers purchased more Echo Dot Kids Edition and Fire Kids Edition tablets than ever before.
  • Customers purchased millions of Amazon Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and Kindle products this holiday season.
  • The best-selling electronics this holiday season included Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones, the Samsung Flat 65” 4K UHD 8 Series Smart LED TV, Apple iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB) in Space Gray, Wemo Mini Smart Plug, Blue Yeti USB Microphone in Blackout, Wyze Cam 1080p HD Indoor Wireless Smart Home Camera, and HP Sprocket Photo Paper.
  • More than 50 percent of items sold via Amazon this holiday season came from small and medium-sized businesses.
  • The best-selling items at Amazon 4-star this holiday season included Amazon Smart Plug, al-new Echo Dot, Becoming by Michele Obama, L.O.L Surprise! Under Wraps Doll Series toys, and the DASH Rapid Egg Cooker.

The part of the press release that made me a little uncomfortable was the portions that revealed how much data Amazon can gather up from consumers. Here are some examples:

  • The fastest grocery delivery this holiday season took place in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was delivered in 12 minutes and 19 seconds, and contained La Croix Sparkling Water and Zevia soda.
  • Customers used Alexa to listen to hundreds of millions of hours of music this holiday season, compared to last holiday season, and on even more services – including Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music, among others.
  • The number one holiday song that customers requested this holiday season was “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.
  • Customers asked Alexa to turn on their holiday lights tens of millions of times this holiday season, with the number one request being “Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree.”
  • Customers requested 3x as many recipes this holiday season compared to last and asked Alexa for cooking-related advice twice as much.
  • Alexa helped mix hundreds of thousands of cocktails this holiday season – with eggnog and Moscow Mule being the most requested drinks.
  • The last Prime Now delivery on Christmas Eve was made at 11:30 pm in Berkeley, CA and included LEGO Super Heroes Captain America Building Kit, a Hallmark card, Greek yogurt, and shampoo.

Amazon Sent Cryptic Email About a “Technical Error”



Amazon sent a cryptic and somewhat confusing email to some users about a “technical error”. CNBC posted some tweets that included screenshots of the email. (This odd situation was first reported by Beta News.)

According to the tweets, the email from Amazon had the subject line: “Important information about your Amazon.com Account”. The email said: “We’re contacting you to let you know that our website inadvertently disclosed your email address due to a technical error. The issue has been fixed. This is not a result of anything you have done, and there is no need for you to change your password or take any other action.”

The wording is really weird. Some people have wondered why Amazon didn’t suggest that people change their email password – advice that is typically given after something like this happens. How long ago did the “technical error” occur? Amazon didn’t say.

It is troubling that Amazon clearly is aware that a “technical error” exposed some user’s email address to those who should not have it. But, for whatever reason, Amazon failed to let users know who their email address had been sent to.

I understand that this sort of situation might be considered a data breach, and that companies are supposed to let users know about what happened. Unfortunately, Amazon’s cryptic email failed to give affected users any clear idea of what happened or why it happened.

To me, it feels like Amazon is blaming their website for the “technical error” – as though the website was sentient and independently made the decision to send out people’s email addresses. It is like Amazon is trying to separate themselves from being blamed for whatever happens as a result of the “technical error”.

Amazon appears to have decided to keep things extremely vague. It sort of informed users about the “technical error”, but managed to leave out all significant details. This is not good enough.


Amazon Raises Minimum Wage to $15 for all U.S. Employees



I love when big companies do something that truly benefits their workers. Amazon announced that they are increasing the minimum wage to $15 for all full-time, part-time, temporary (including those hired by agencies) and seasonal employees across the United States. This raise will be effective on November 1, 2018.

Recode reported that Amazon said that workers who are already making $15 an hour would also see a pay bump. It is unclear how much that increase would be.

The $15 minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 Amazon employees, as well as over 100,000 seasonal employees who will be hired at Amazon sites across the country this holiday. In other words, Amazon workers will get start to get more money right as the holiday season starts.

Even better – Amazon’s public policy team will begin advocating for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Senior Vice President of Amazon Global Corporate Affairs, Jay Carney, pointed out that the current rate of $7.25 was set nearly a decade ago.

The Economic Policy Institute supports a federal minimum wage of $15 by 2024. They point out that those who make the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour are making about 25 percent less per hour than their counterparts made 50 years ago (after adjusting for inflation).

I often find myself frustrated by big companies that fail to pay their workers a livable wage. Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman and CEO of Amazon, has a net worth of $166.3 billion. It’s fantastic that he finally stepped up and decided to start paying his workers more money.

Image from Pixabay


Amazon Considers Opening Cashierless Stores



Would you like to shop in a store where there aren’t any cashiers? You might have the opportunity to do so in the next few years. Bloomberg reports that Amazon is considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 new AmazonGo cahsierless stores in the next few years.

The Bloomberg article says this information is “according to people familiar with the matter”. To me, the news of Amazon considering adding up to 3,000 new AmazonGo stores seems plausible. There currently are three AmazonGo stores in Seattle, Washington, and one in Chicago, Illinois.

In order to shop at an AmazonGo store, you need to have a smartphone and the free AmazonGo app. Shoppers use the the app to enter the store. Once inside, the person can pick up items off the shelf the same way they would usually shop. Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take, and then automatically bills them.

For some, this may be a big convenience. But, this convenience comes at the expense of others. Older people, who don’t use smartphones, can’t shop at an AmazonGo store. Neither can low-income people who can’t afford a smartphone or who struggle to pay for a data plan.

That might not be a big issue while there are only four AmazonGo stores. It’s going to turn into a huge problem if and when the number of AmazonGo stores grows to 3,000. The Bloomberg article indicates that Amazon wants to compete with convenience stores and places where people can get lunch or dinner quickly.

In other words, AmazonGo could, potentially, push out stores like 7-Eleven, and some fast food places. It reminds me of the Bodega that was designed to only be accessible to people who had smartphones.

In my opinion, it is immoral to replace stores where low-income people can shop with stores that designed to exclude them. It is also troubling that the AmazonGo stores, which have no cashiers, won’t be able to offer jobs to local people.