Tag Archives: amazon

California Attorney General Sues Amazon For Blocking Price Competition



California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a lawsuit against Amazon alleging that the company stifled competition and caused increased prices across California through anticompetitive contracting practices in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and Cartwright Act.

Further information includes:

In order to avoid competing on prices with other online e-commerce sites, Amazon requires merchants to enter into agreements that severely penalize them if their products are offered for a lower price off-Amazon. In today’s lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta alleges that these agreements thwart the ability of other online retailers to compete, contributing to Amazon’s dominance in the online retail marketplace and harming merchants and consumers through inflated fees and higher prices.

“For years, California consumers have paid more for their online purchases because of Amazon’s anticompetitive contracting practices,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Amazon coerces merchants into agreement that keep prices artificially high, knowing full well they can’t afford to say no. With other e-commerce platforms unable to compete on price, consumers turn to Amazon as a one-stop shop for all their purchases. This perpetuates Amazon’s market dominance, allowing the company to make increasingly untenable demands on its merchants and costing consumers more at checkout across California…”

The Attorney General provided information about the lawsuit against Amazon and requested relief:

The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks an order from the San Francisco Superior Court that stops Amazon’s anticompetitive behavior and recovers the damages to California consumers and the California economy. Specifically, the lawsuit asks the Court to:

  • Prohibit Amazon from entering into and enforcing its anticompetitive contracts that harm price competition;
  • Require Amazon to affirmatively notify vendors that it does not require sellers to offer prices on par with off-Amazon prices;
  • Appoint a Court-approved monitor, to ensure Amazon’s compliance with the Court’s order;
  • Order damages to compensate for the harms to consumers through increased prices; and
  • Order Amazon to return its ill-gotten gains and pay penalties to serve as a deterrent to other companies contemplating similar actions.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the suit is the result of an investigation the began in early 2020. It seeks unspecified damages for harm to the state economy and $2,500 for each violation of the state’s civil and professional code proved at trial.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit represents the biggest legal challenge to date in the U.S. for Amazon, which was previously sued by the District of Columbia and is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, the European Union, and a congressional committee. Because California is the nation’s most populous state and biggest economy, its business regulations have long swayed how companies operate across the country, The Wall Street Journal reported.

If things work out the way Attorney General Bonta wants them to, I think it will could cause other states to create similar lawsuits against Amazon. The result could potentially make it less expensive for people to buy products from Amazon.


Internal Documents Show Tech Giants Pushing Out Competitors



Internal documents from Google and Amazon provided to Politico show new examples of how companies favor their own products over competitors’ – adding ammunition to the push for Congress to toughen antitrust laws, Politico reported.

According to Politico, the documents, which include emails, memos and strategy papers, were shared by the House Judicial committee, which obtained them as part of its long-running antitrust investigation of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta that wrapped up in October 2020 with a 450-page staff report. The documents were cited in the report, but had not previously been made available.

The documents bolster the committee’s claims that the internet giants illegally favor their own products, a practice that pending legislation to update antitrust laws would make more difficult, Politico reported.

The U.S House Committee on The Judiciary posted a Press Release titled: “Judiciary Committee Publishes Final Report on Competition in the Digital Marketplace”. Here are some key points from the press release:

The House Judiciary Committee today formally published the Committee’s Report, entitled “Investigation of Competition in the Digital Marketplace: Committee Report and Recommendations.” The report was initially released in October 2020 as a Majority Staff Report following a 16-month investigation, led by the Antitrust Subcommittee, into the state of competition in the digital economy, with a focus on the challenges presented by the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

In April 2021, the Committee held a markup and formally adopted the Report. The Report totals more than 450 pages, detailing the findings and recommendations from a bipartisan investigation that included documents and communications from the investigated firms; submissions from 38 antitrust experts; and interviews with more than 240 market participants, former employees of the investigated firms, and other individuals.

The Verge reported that the documents show how Amazon and Google pressured independent sellers and smartphone manufacturers to favor their own products and platforms over those of their competitors. In a January 2014 email, one Google executive raised concerns over a potential new Samsung service that could compete with the company’s “core search experience.”

In another email, Google executives discuss how Amazon’s involvement changed the market for personal voice assistants. “Amazon has changed the dynamics here,” the heavily redacted email reads. “Amazon has built-in incentive to partner with Alexa since they will pull you from their store if you don’t support it.” The Verge reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the tech companies oppose the legislation, saying it would unnecessarily raise the costs of operating platforms that are popular because they benefit consumers and small businesses. According to The Wall Street Journal, lawmakers backing an antitrust bill targeting big tech companies ramped up their push for a vote by releasing internal tech company documents they say show anticompetitive behavior.

I’m not surprised that the big tech companies are engaging in shenanigans. There is a chance that they could face legal consequences if the vote on the antitrust legislation passes.


Amazon Provided Ring Doorbell Footage To Police



Amazon handed Ring video doorbell footage to police without owners’ permission at least 11 times so far this year – a figure that highlights the unfettered access the company is giving police to doorsteps across the country, Politico reported.

On July 13, 2022, U.S. Senator Markey posted on his website “Senator Markey’s Probe Into Amazon Ring Reveals New Privacy Problems”.

Here are some key findings:

…The findings highlight the close relationship between Ring and law enforcement, including the proliferation of policing agencies on the Ring platform. In response to Senator Markey’s June letter, Ring reported a more than five-fold increase in law enforcement partnerships on its platform since November 2019. Ring further revealed that Ring has provided law enforcement with user footage through a process that does not require the user’s consent – under a so-called “emergency circumstance exception” – 11 times so far this year…

In response to questions raised in Senator Markey’s June Letter, Ring:

Refused to commit to not incorporating voice recognition technology in its products. In a previous letter to Senator Markey, Ring refused to commit to not incorporating facial recognition technology in its products

Reported 2,161 law enforcement agencies on its Neighbors Public Safety Service (NPSS), a platform on which participating agencies can request footage from Ring users. This represents a more than five-fold increase in law enforcement partnerships with Ring since November 2019.

Disclosed it has provided videos to law enforcement in response to an emergency request, through a process that does not require the consent of the device owner, 11 times this year.

Stated that only police and fire departments are currently on NPSS, despite their commitment to actively recruit public health departments, animal services, and agencies that primarily address homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health onto Ring’s platform.

Failed to clarify the distance from which Ring products can capture audio recordings.

Refused to eliminate Ring doobells’ default setting of automatically recording audio.

Refused to commit to make end-to-end encryption the default storage option for consumers.

A copy the full response from Ring can be found HERE for those who want to read it.

The Guardian reported that Ring has said before that it will not share customer information with police without consent, a warrant, or due to “an exigent or emergency” circumstance. The 11 videos shared this year fell under the emergency provision, Amazon’s letter said, the first time the company publicly shared such information. The letter, dated July 1, did not say which videos were shared with the police.

Personally, I think Ring cameras are invasive. I don’t understand why Ring feels the need to grab video and send it to the police. There must be changes made that prevent anyone – other than the owner of the camera – from seeing the videos their Ring recorded.


Amazon Prime Air Prepares For Drone Deliveries



Amazon announced that Amazon customers in Lockeford, California, will be among the first to receive Prime Air drone deliveries in the U.S. Amazon wrote: The promise of drone delivery has often felt like science fiction. We’ve been working for almost a decade to make it a reality.

According to Amazon, Lockeford has historic links to the aviation industry. The community boasts one of the early pioneers of aviation – Weldon B. Cooke, who built and flew early planes in the early 1900’s – as a former resident. Now, over a century later, residents will get the opportunity to sign up for free drone delivery on thousands of everyday items,

Lockeford residents will play an important role in defining the future. Their feedback about Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere – while adding another innovation to the town’s aviation history.

Amazon says it is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local officials in Lockeford to obtain permission to conduct these deliveries and will continue with that collaboration into the future.

CNET reported that Amazon has been developing drones for years. It gained FAA approval for the drones in 2020, before scaling back the project the following year.

According to CNET, the drones use sense-and-avoid systems to operate safely. The drones can reliably avoid obstacles including other aircraft, people, and pets, Amazon said.

Once the system launches, customers in Lockeford will be able to order products through Amazon Prime Air and wait for the drone to arrive. It will fly to its destination, descend to the customers’ backyard, and drop the package from a safe height, before zooming away.

The Hill reported that Amazon’s Prime Air is one of three drone delivery service companies that has earned an FAA air carrier certificate, according to the company. The Hill also reported that Amazon says its drones can carry up to five pounds.

I can understand why Amazon wants to use drones to send things to customers who pay for Amazon Prime. It would not only give Amazon a reason to use its drones to deliver packages, but also could encourage customers to keep their Amazon Prime subscription going.

What I don’t like about Amazon’s Prime Air drone deliveries is that it appears to limit who can make use of it. A person could have an Amazon Prime subscription – but not have a backyard for the drone to drop the package in.


Amazon Shuts Off Prime Video in Russia



Amazon announced an update to its retail, entertainment, and AWS businesses in Russia and Belarus. This was posted on its “About Amazon” site. From the announcement:

Given the ongoing situation in Russia and Ukraine, we’ve taken additional actions in the region. We’ve suspended shipment of retail products to customers based in Russia and Belarus, and we will no longer be accepting new Russian and Belarus-based AWS customers and Amazon third-party sellers. We are also suspending access to Prime Video for customers in Russia, and we will no longer be taking orders for New World, which is the only video game we sell directly in Russia.

In addition, Amazon provided some more details: “As a reminder, unlike some other U.S. technology providers, Amazon and AWS have no data centers, infrastructure, or offices in Russia and we have a long-standing policy of not doing business with the Russian government.”

New World launched in September of 2021. The game is only playable on a PC. The Wikipedia article for the game describes it as a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) developed by Amazon Games Orange County and published by Amazon Games. The game is set in the mid-seventeenth century, and players colonize a fictional land molded after the Americas.

Based on Amazon’s announcement, it appears that people who are in Russia or Belarus will soon lose access to Prime Video, and will be suspended from playing (or purchasing) New World. Amazon will also no longer accept new sign-ups for AWS from people who are based on Russia or Belarus.

Historically, it is not unheard of for various governments to choose to support, or to withhold support, from countries that are at war with each other. In today’s world, it appears that part of the way to isolate a country that appears to be the instigator of a war is to… take away access to video games (and Amazon Prime). It seems like a small thing, but might have an impact, considering that many gaming companies have blocked Russian access to games and consoles.


Amazon continues to keep Fire TV on sale



Amazon released Fire TV back in 2014, and it took off fairly quickly, becoming second behind only the Roku box. Since then, the television market has caught up to it, it’s no longer just Netflix and Hulu anymore. And now TV has mostly moved to the internet, with services like Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu TV and others. 

Prior to Black Friday, Amazon put its Fire TV Sticks on sale, but Thanksgiving week is well over with now. Amazon is keeping the devices at the sale price, slightly more than it was over Thanksgiving, but still a considerable discount. 

The base model, the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, regularly $39.99 is currently $24.99; the Fire TV 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, which retails for $49.99, is currently $29.99 and the high-end Fire TV 4K Max, Wi-Fi 6, regularly $54.99, now $34.99. 

There is now word on how long the deal will last, so the sooner you grab it, the better off you are. After all, it can disappear any day now. 


Amazon Music and Ring still out of reach due AWS outage



It’s been a bad day for folks who wanted to chill with music, holiday tunes or not. At least if you’re were relying on Amazon Music to provide the tunes. It could be downright scary if you’re relying on Ring services, also owned by Amazon. Ring handles security and one business we spoke with noted that only nine of its 16 cameras were operational, those are the wired ones. The wireless are useless for the time being.

Both services operate under AWS, a high-end cloud-computing system that runs some of the largest systems in the world. Generally, it’s considered reliable and consistent. As of now, Amazon’s latest status update reads:

[2:04 PM PST] We have executed a mitigation which is showing significant recovery in the US-EAST-1 Region. We are continuing to closely monitor the health of the network devices and we expect to continue to make progress towards full recovery. We still do not have an ETA for full recovery at this time

We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed.