Amazon is being pressured into being more transparent with its system of awarding the “Amazon’s Choice” badge onto certain products.
In a development pregnant with multiple outcomes the sum of which may not favor Amazon.com Inc, two U.S. senators have questioned Amazon.com Inc’s Chief Executive Jeff Bezos on how it awards the “Amazon’s Choice” badge on certain products and whether this badge deceives consumers into purchasing “products of inferior quality.”
“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” said Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal in a letter to Bezos.
The “Amazon’s Choice” logo is a small badge that appears next to certain items, much like its “Best Seller” mark.
In 2015, Amazon.com had sued few companies to block them from reporting fake reviews on its platform in order to boost the sales of their products.
According to the senators, the lack of transparency into how Amazon determines which products is awarded the badge has led to questions which include whether Amazon is using it to “promote its own products over competitors’ products, potentially disadvantaging smaller sellers on the platform.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Both senators have requested a “detailed explanation of the process” which Amazon.com uses to determine which products are awarded the Amazon’s Choice badge; they have also asked whether the online retailer uses an algorithm to do so.
They also wanted to know whether Amazon employees personally review the products to “ensure they meet a certain quality threshold.”
Amazon.com has come under heavy criticism for its power over third-party sellers on its platform; third party sellers have to pay for advertising in order to compete against first-party and private-label sales by Amazon’s own brands.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice had disclosed that it has begun investigating whether big technology companies, including “some retail services online” were engaging in anti-competitive practices.