For years, Amazon has been accused of stealing IP and copying successful products sold on its marketplace, offering them back as Amazon branded, and now a Reuters report called “The Imitation Game” claims internal documents from 2016 show that’s exactly what it did in India.
According to Reuters, a review of thousands of pages of Amazon documents showed how a clandestine operation reviewed data from Amazon.in to create cloned products, then manipulated search results to place its items at the top.
The report has led U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, to call for a breakup of Amazon, and Indian retailers are demanding a government investigation into the allegations.
In order to ensure the quality of the knockoff products, Amazon allegedly partnered exclusively with manufacturers of the targeted items due to the “unique processes which impact the end quality of the product,” according to Reuters.
Amazon’s efforts to target and replicate products sold on its Indian platform let to development of an in-house brand called Solimo, whose products are sold in the U.S. on Amazon.com.
Amazon has denied the allegations. “As Reuters hasn’t shared the documents or their provenance with us, we are unable to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the information and claims as stated. We believe these claims are factually incorrect and unsubstantiated,” the company said.
As for the claim of doctoring search results, the company told Reuters it “strictly prohibits the use or sharing of non-public, seller-specific data for the benefit of any seller, including sellers of private brands” and investigates reports of violation by employees.
Amazon in particular and so-called “big tech” in general have been under increasing government scrutiny here and abroad for alleged monopolistic behavior. Legislation proposed in June called for Amazon, Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook to either split up or shed assets, while another bill called for limiting their ability to favor their own products on their platforms.
Separately, the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Amazon since at least 2019, interviewing third-party sellers on its marketplace in an effort to determine if it uses anti-competitive practices.