By Brian Fung, CNN
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy must testify in an ongoing Federal Trade Commission probe into whether the company misled people into subscribing to Amazon Prime and other services, the agency said Wednesday.
The decision follows earlier Amazon (AMZN) claims that FTC staff were harassing the two men and imposing undue burdens on them. Amazon had filed a petition to the agency’s topmost officials asking them to intervene.
But agency commissioners said Amazon had not met the legal threshold to quash the civil subpoenas issued to the two men.
“Amazon provides no reason why the Commission must accept anything less than all the relevant testimony it can obtain from these two witnesses,” FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson wrote in Wednesday’s order.
In a statement, Amazon said it is “disappointed but unsurprised the FTC largely declined to rule against itself, but we’re pleased that the agency walked backed its broadest requests and will allow witnesses to choose their own counsel.”
“Amazon has cooperated with the FTC throughout the investigation and already produced tens of thousands of pages of documents,” the company said. “We are committed to engaging constructively with FTC staff, but we remain concerned that the latest requests are overly broad and needlessly burdensome, and we will explore all our options.”
The requirement that Amazon’s most powerful leaders testify to the FTC underscores the depth and breadth of the agency’s investigation, which covers a sweeping range of Amazon services.
It began in March 2021 as an investigation into Amazon Prime, and whether Amazon automatically enrolled consumers in the program without their consent. The probe has since expanded to include nearly a half-dozen Amazon services including Audible, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited and Subscribe & Save.
The expanded probe came after a Business Insider article reported that some within Amazon itself were concerned about whether the company’s customer acquisition and retention practices may be “deliberately confusing.”
Amazon has said that after providing thousands of documents related to the Prime investigation, the FTC’s request for further information is unreasonably broad. Complying with the request would require, among other things, interviewing a large number of other employees to find the relevant information, it has said.
Amazon also argued in its petition that Bezos and Jassy should not have to testify because other officials would be more likely to have the kind of specific knowledge the FTC seeks.
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