Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and current CEO Andy Jassy were ordered to testify in a probe of the e-retail giant’s Prime membership program, the Federal Trade Commission said late Wednesday.
The executives last month claimed the federal agency’s demand that they testify in the investigation of the sign-up and cancellation processes for its Prime program was “burdensome.”
Amazon said the FTC was seeking to “harass” both Jassy and former CEO Bezos by demanding they testify at an investigative hearing “on an open-ended list of topics,” and asked that their testimony be quashed or at least delayed until after all other company officials had given testimony.
The FTC rejected their argument, ordering Amazon to comply with its broad June 30 Civil Investigative Demand no later than Oct. 7.
“Amazon provides no reason why the Commission must accept anything less than all the relevant testimony it can obtain from these two witnesses,” the FTC order stated.
After the decision, Amazon said it was “disappointed but unsurprised the FTC largely declined to rule against itself, but we’re pleased that the agency walked back its broadest requests and will allow witnesses to choose their own counsel.”
“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,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
Amazon said it has “cooperated with” the agency throughout the investigation, providing 37,000 requested documents. It further emphasized that an investigation like this would require interviews with scores of employees and that the agency’s demand is unreasonably broad.
The probe began in March 2021 over Amazon’s alleged violations of the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence (ROSCA) Act, with customers automatically enrolled in Prime subscriptions without their consent.
The agency expanded the investigation in June to include other services including Music, Audible, Kindle Unlimited and Subscribe & Save after an Insider article reported that the company’s customer retention and acquisition tactics were “deliberately confusing.”
The FTC order noted Amazon is one of the world’s foremost companies with net revenue of over $32 billion in 2021 and more than 1.6 million employees.
“By contrast, the FTC’s 2021 budget topped out at only $351 million, or slightly more than 1% of Amazon’s earnings,” the FTC added in a footnote to the main text.