Amazon (AMZN) has sharply criticized a looming antitrust bill in Congress that it says unfairly targets the company and could degrade its customers’ experience.
In a blog post Wednesday, Amazon VP of Public Policy Brian Huseman alleged that a bill led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the Senate and Rep. David Cicilline in the House excludes competitors such as Walmart (WMT), Costco and Target using a $550 billion market-cap threshold. Huseman also said Amazon customers could face longer shipping times if the company is forced by the bill to let rival shipping providers fulfill orders under Amazon Prime, which offers fast shipping options.
The proposed legislation, known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), is intended to limit conflicts of interest that may be created when a tech platform owns more than one type of business. It also covers a number of Big Tech companies, including Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and Microsoft (MSFT). In Amazon’s case, critics have previously complained that the company harms competition by selling its own products on the same digital marketplace as third-party sellers, as well as requiring third-party sellers to abide by platform terms that appear to favor Amazon’s logistics services.
“Were this legislation to become law, it would substantially degrade the value and quality of Prime, as many of the products sold in our store today with Prime’s one- to two-day delivery promise would be undeliverable in that time frame,” Huseman wrote. “This degradation of the Prime experience would materially hurt not just Amazon (which is what we believe to be the real, unstated goal of the legislation), but, more importantly, every American consumer and small business that currently relies on the Prime service.”
Of the major tech regulation bills being considered in Congress, AICOA appears closest to becoming law, though it still faces a long road. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly intends to bring the legislation to a vote this summer, which could set up a subsequent House vote. But if it drags into the fall, the midterm elections risk derailing the process.
“As one of the nation’s largest retailers, we understand our success invites scrutiny,” Huseman wrote in the blog post. “We also understand that such scrutiny can bring calls for new regulations. If Congress believes that the highly competitive retail industry needs regulation, we welcome the opportunity to engage in identifying and addressing legitimate concerns lawmakers may have. But the proposed bills that Congress is now considering, which attempt to broadly cover five companies, each with a vastly different business model, should be reconsidered.”
In response to Amazon’s blog post, a spokesperson for Klobuchar said the company was misrepresenting the bill’s effects and that it would help the very small businesses Amazon claimed to represent, as well as smaller tech companies, hotels and the 35,000 businesses represented by the National Association of Wholesale Distributors.
Those and other small business groups have endorsed the bill, along with the departments of Commerce and Justice.
“Who do you trust? The largest online retailer in America with a demonstrated record of stiffing small businesses and lying about this bill’s impact, or small businesses themselves?” the spokesperson said. “We’ll take the side of small business and consumers – not the side of big tech monopolists.”