DC files antitrust case vs Amazon over treatment of vendors

FILE - This April 21, 2020 file photo shows Amazon tractor trailers line up outside the Amazon Fulfillment Center in the Staten Island borough of New York.  The District of Columbia has sued Amazon, Tuesday, May 25, 2021 accusing the online retail giant of illegal anticompetitive practices in its treatment of sellers on its platform.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FILE - This April 21, 2020 file photo shows Amazon tractor trailers line up outside the Amazon Fulfillment Center in the Staten Island borough of New York. The District of Columbia has sued Amazon, Tuesday, May 25, 2021 accusing the online retail giant of illegal anticompetitive practices in its treatment of sellers on its platform. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia has sued Amazon, accusing the online retail giant of anticompetitive practices in its treatment of sellers on its platform. The practices have raised prices for consumers and stifled innovation and choice in the online retail market, the DC attorney general alleges in an antitrust suit.

The suit filed Tuesday in the District of Columbia court maintains that Amazon has fixed online retail prices through contract provisions and policies it applies to third-party sellers. It alleges these provisions and policies prevent sellers that offer products on Amazon.com from offering their products at lower prices or on better terms on any other online platform, including their own websites.

“We filed this antitrust lawsuit to put an end to Amazon’s illegal control of prices across the online retail market,” DC Attorney General Karl Racine said in a conference call with reporters. “We need a fair online marketplace that expands options available to (District of Columbia) residents and promotes competition, innovation and choice.”

Racine said Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, controls 50% to 70% of online market sales.

The suit seeks to end Amazon's use of the allegedly illegal price agreements as well as unspecified damages and penalties.

Amazon rejected the allegations, saying the relief Racine is seeking “would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law."

“The DC attorney general has it exactly backwards — sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store," the Seattle company said in a prepared statement. “Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively. “

Founded by Jeff Bezos, the world's richest individual, Amazon runs an e-commerce empire and ventures in cloud computing, personal “smart" tech and beyond.