ABA Urges Federal and State Investigation of Amazon’s Business Practices

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This week, the American Booksellers Association launched a national advocacy campaign with letters urging the U.S. Congress, the 50 state attorneys general, and the 50 state governors to investigate Amazon for violations of antitrust laws.

In the letters, ABA CEO Oren Teicher wrote that the association strongly believes that “Amazon’s abuse of its dominance and its growing monopolization have had a negative impact on free expression and the health of America’s book industry, including a chilling effect on the diversity of, and access to, books and information.”

In conjunction with the antitrust campaign, ABA launched its Antitrust Action Kit, which provides booksellers with state-specific letters that they can adapt and send to both their state and federal lawmakers as well as other key officials.

“We strongly encourage booksellers to use the templates in the Action Kit to reach out to their federal and state lawmakers, as well as their attorney general and governor,” said Teicher. “Antitrust laws exist to protect consumers, their communities, and small businesses from the very business practices now being employed by Amazon.”

In the letters, Teicher noted the parallels between Amazon’s business model and corporations that in the past were ultimately charged with antitrust violations. He pointed out that Amazon has as large a market share in the entire book business as Standard Oil did in its industry in 1911.

Teicher also pointed out that Amazon’s business model is very similar to the A&P grocery store chain’s business model prior to 1949, when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that A&P violated antitrust laws. “Like A&P,” he wrote, “Amazon is not keeping prices artificially high. Indeed, it is keeping prices artificially low, and extending its reach into production and distribution. This spurs further growth for Amazon, while forcing smaller competitors to do business with it even as it simultaneously competes against them. In the process, Amazon has garnered great influence among policymakers in states and in the federal government, garnering tax subsidies that only increase its market advantage at the cost of tax revenue and millions of jobs.”

The letters cite state-specific data from the Civic Economics study “Amazon and Empty Storefronts,” which provides key data on jobs and state revenue losses as a result of the company’s growth. In 43 of the 50 states, Amazon’s business practices have resulted in retail job losses.