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Amazon discontinues Prime Pantry

The company still offers Fresh and Whole Foods delivery

As part of its effort to streamline its grocery delivery offerings, Amazon has announced that it’s discontinuing Prime Pantry. 

Prime Pantry was Amazon’s first grocery delivery offering. When it first launched in 2014, customers could use the service to get a box of up to 45 pounds worth of household items and non-perishable goods delivered for a $6 delivery fee. Amazon later began offering Pantry to subscribers willing to pay $5 per month (on top of regular Prime fees) for unlimited deliveries. 

On Wednesday, the company announced that it’s shutting down the service as part of an effort to consolidate its grocery delivery offerings. 

“As part of our commitment to delivering the best possible customer experience, we have decided to transfer Amazon Pantry selection to the main Amazon.com store so customers can get everyday household products faster, without an extra subscription or purchase requirement,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. 

Amazon ramps up grocery delivery

The spokesperson told Bloomberg that the products previously available through Pantry have been integrated into its main retail site. The customers who were paying $5 a month for Pantry were notified last month about the impending service shutdown. 

Amazon has ramped up its grocery delivery offerings significantly over the past few years. In 2017, the company purchased Whole Foods and made it possible for Amazon Prime members to get groceries delivered from the store in as little as an hour. 

The company also still offers Fresh, a free service that allows customers to get fresh food delivered in two hours or less. 

As part of its effort to streamline its grocery delivery offerings, Amazon has announced that it’s discontinuing Prime Pantry. Prime Pantry was Amazon’...

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Amazon buys 11 aircraft to expand the efficiency of its delivery service

The company is one step closer to its goal of being fully independent when it comes to delivery

If you’ve got a spare Boeing 767 sitting around, Amazon may be willing to take it off your hands. The online retail giant announced that it bought 11 Boeing 767-300 aircraft from Delta Air Lines and WestJet -- carriers that had to ground some planes due to COVID-19 -- to expand its fleet and advance its delivery to customers. 

“Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the U.S. in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal,” said Sarah Rhoads, Vice President of Amazon Global Air. “Having a mix of both leased and owned aircraft in our growing fleet allows us to better manage our operations, which in turn helps us to keep pace in meeting our customer promises.”

Rhoads said the newly acquired planes are being retrofitted for cargo and should be back in the air in the next 12-24 months.

Longer distances quicker

The company says that Amazon Air is an important delivery component because it allows it to transport items across longer distances in shorter time frames. That alone would be a welcome relief to Amazon Prime members who have experienced delays in getting their packages because of slowdowns caused by the pandemic. 

Since its 2016 launch, Amazon Air has methodically added regional air hubs to, presumably, end its reliance on third-party services like FedEx and UPS. Last year, Amazon launched its first-ever air hub at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany and new regional air operations centers in Lakeland, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Richmond, San Juan PR, Maui, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. 

If you’ve got a spare Boeing 767 sitting around, Amazon may be willing to take it off your hands. The online retail giant announced that it bought 11 Boein...

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Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama to vote on whether to join a union

The online retailer says those who petitioned to form a union don’t represent the majority of its workers

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will be allowed to vote soon on whether to unionize. If workers at the facility vote to form a union, it would be the first one at any of the company’s warehouses in the U.S. 

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that workers at the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse could move forward with their intent to hold an election that could unionize around 1,500 full and part-time warehouse workers.

“We are administratively satisfied that the [union] has a sufficient showing of interest to move forward,” Terry D. Combs, assistant to the regional director of the NLRB’s Atlanta region.

The NLRB is set to hold a hearing on Friday to determine how and when to hold the unionization vote. 

Amazon pushing back

Amazon previously expressed opposition to unionization efforts, and it has largely been successful in other cases. In a statement about the current effort, the company said those who petitioned to hold the vote didn’t represent "the majority of our employees' views.” It also touted its competitive wages and benefits.

“On top of Amazon’s industry-leading minimum $15 per hour wage, the company offers full-time employees comprehensive benefits including full medical, vision, and dental insurance as well as a 401(k) with 50 percent match starting on day one,” the company said. 

“Amazon prioritizes the safety and health of its employees and has invested millions of dollars to provide a safe workplace. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of maternal and parental paid leave and innovative benefits such as Leave Share and Ramp Back, which give new parents flexibility to support their growing families.”

Workers cite problematic conditions

The last time Amazon workers were close to joining a union happened in 2014, when a small group of workers voted 21 to 6 against having the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent them.

The Alabama workers have said the company’s safety measures are insufficient and workers are often saddled with work quotas that are difficult to meet. 

"Nineteen workers have died at Amazon facilities. We face outrageous work quotas that have left many with illnesses and lifetime injuries," the group says. "With a union contract, we can form a worker safety committee, and negotiate the highest safety standards and protocols for our workplace."

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will be allowed to vote soon on whether to unionize. If workers at the facility vote to form a union, it would be the f...

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Amazon sellers fined for price gouging hand sanitizer during the pandemic

Three sellers have been ordered to reimburse New Yorkers

A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday, James’ office said three third-party sellers -- Mobile Rush, EMC Group, and Northwest-Lux -- sold upwards of 1,000 units of hand sanitizer on Amazon’s marketplace “at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable” elsewhere.

During February and March, Northwest-Lux was charging Amazon customers $79.99 to $129.99 for 2-liter bottles of Purell. Mobile Rush was charging $19.99 to $29.99 for single, 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer. EMC was charging consumers $35.98 to $52.99 for 8-packs of 1-ounce Purell bottles. 

James said she has stopped the merchants from selling hand sanitizer at expensive rates. She also said she will reimburse New Yorkers that bought the high-priced hand sanitizer.

Consumer reimbursement ordered

The sellers have been ordered to pay a fine of $52,000 to the state of New York. Defrauded consumers will collectively be reimbursed almost $23,000. 

“Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James in a press release. 

“Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.”

Consumers who purchased overpriced hand sanitizer products from any of the three sellers don’t need to do anything to receive restitution. James said the companies are required to automatically issue partial refunds to the credit card, debit card, or bank account that consumers used to make their original purchases. 

A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of...

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Amazon CEO announces first beneficiaries of Earth Fund

The fund will provide millions to those seeking to ‘preserve and protect the natural world’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the first recipients of his “Earth Fund,” a $10 billion fund established earlier this year to help address the climate crisis. 

In his announcement of the fund back in February, Bezo said grants from it would go to scientists, activists, and other environmental advocacy groups that have set out to combat climate change. The Amazon executive said the goal of the fund is to financially support individuals and groups that are seeking to “preserve and protect the natural world.”

On Monday, Bezos named the first 16 beneficiaries of the fund. Grants will be going out to the following groups: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, ClimateWorks Foundation, Dream Corps Green For All, Eden Reforestation Projects, Energy Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, NDN Collective, Rocky Mountain Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Solutions Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.

These initial recipients will get a collective $791 million. The amount allocated to each organization varies, but it ranges from between $5 million to $100 million. 

Taking action

In an Instagram post, Bezos said the first round of grants was “just the beginning” of his multi-billion dollar commitment to fighting climate change. 

“I’ve spent the past several months learning from a group of incredibly smart people who’ve made it their life’s work to fight climate change and its impact on communities around the world,” Bezos said. “I’m inspired by what they’re doing, and excited to help them scale.” 

“We can all protect Earth’s future by taking bold action now,” he added.

The Nature Conservancy said it will be putting some of its grant money towards supporting programs that benefit temperate rainforests.

“These vast forests are globally critical for carbon capture, and our conservation strategy prioritizes Indigenous and local communities,” said Eric Delvin, a program director for The Nature Conservancy. “In direct collaboration with Indigenous peoples across the rainforest’s diverse regions, we support sovereign authority and supporting sustainable economies.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the first recipients of his “Earth Fund,” a $10 billion fund established earlier this year to help address the climate...

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Amazon launches Amazon Pharmacy

The online drug store offers drug discounts for Prime members

In one of its most ambitious expansions to date, Amazon has launched an online pharmacy that allows consumers to order prescription medication at the same place they order household products and groceries and have them delivered to their homes.

Amazon Pharmacy, accessible through Amazon’s website and app, will allow customers in most of the U.S. to have prescription medication delivered to their homes. Prime members will get free delivery.

At the same time, the online retailer is launching a prescription discount program for Prime members who don’t have prescription drug coverage. The benefit applies not only at Amazon Pharmacy but also at 50,000 other participating drug stores in the U.S.

Amazon says the two services together make it easier for customers to shop around for the best prices and to conveniently order medications for home delivery.

Builds on Amazon’s PillPack acquisition

Amazon’s move into health and medicine doesn’t exactly come as a surprise since it’s been inching in that direction for years. In 2018, it acquired PillPack, a mail-order prescription service. Analysts say Amazon Pharmacy is using much of the PillPack infrastructure and experience to build out its new online pharmacy business.

“As more and more people look to complete everyday errands from home, pharmacy is an important and needed addition to the Amazon online store,” said Doug Herrington, senior vice president of North American Consumer at Amazon. “PillPack has provided exceptional pharmacy service for individuals with chronic health conditions for over six years. Now, we’re expanding our pharmacy offering to Amazon.com, which will help more customers save time, save money, simplify their lives, and feel healthier.”

Amazon says the Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit will cut the price of generic medication by up to 80 percent and reduce brand name medication prices by up to 40 percent. The company explains how it works here.

Integrated into the site and app

Amazon Pharmacy is fully integrated into the Amazon site and app. After clicking on “Amazon Pharmacy,” consumers enter the state in which they live and then complete a three-step registration process that ends with the placing of an order.

To start, five states --  Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Minnesota -- are not served by the new service, although Amazon said it expects to serve consumers in those states in the future. In cases where medication is needed in the immediate future, Amazon recommends using a local pharmacy. 

T.J. Parker, founder of PillPack and Amazon’s vice president in charge of Amazon Pharmacy, says one of the goals of the new service is to take a complex business and make it simple for the consumer.

“We work hard behind the scenes to handle complications seamlessly so anyone who needs a prescription can understand their options, place their order for the lowest available price, and have their medication delivered quickly,” he said.

In one of its most ambitious expansions to date, Amazon has launched an online pharmacy that allows consumers to order prescription medication at the same...

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EU charges Amazon with antitrust violations over use of Marketplace data

At issue is how Amazon chooses who’s included in its ‘Buy Box’

Bad news landed on the doorstep at Amazon’s headquarters early Tuesday. The European Commission has informed the online retailer that it feels the company has breached European Union (EU) antitrust rules by “distorting competition in online retail markets.” 

The Commission’s biggest problem with Amazon is that it supposedly gleans non-public business data about independent sellers on its marketplace and uses that information to the benefit of its own retail business, which directly competes with those third-party sellers. 

The value of that information could easily catapult Amazon’s own version of a product to the front of the line. The Commission said that Amazon’s insider information on third-party sellers included the number of ordered and shipped units of products, the sellers' revenues on the marketplace, the number of visits to sellers' offers, shipping data, data related to sellers' past performance, and other consumer claims on products.

“We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition. Data on the activity of third-party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers,” said Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president in charge of competition policy.

The almighty “Buy Box”

The Commission didn’t let Amazon off the hook with just one indiscretion. It also opened a second antitrust investigation into the possible partisan treatment of Amazon's own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services.

In particular, the Commission will take a deep look into the criteria that Amazon sets to select who’s included in its “Buy Box.” The Buy Box is the white box on the right side of an Amazon product’s detail page where customers can click and add items to their cart.

The rub for the Commission is that only businesses with exceptional seller metrics get a chance to be included in the Buy Box -- and guess what decides who qualifies as “exceptional?” Amazon’s own algorithms.

Eyal Lanxner at BigBusiness said that 82 percent of Amazon sales go through the Buy Box, and the percentage is even higher for mobile purchases. Lanxner says that in mobile, the Buy Box takes on heightened importance because, unlike on a desktop or laptop, the mobile site features the Buy Box directly under the product image.

“If you’re that one lucky seller who gets the ‘Buy Box,’ you make all the sales,” says Christo Wilson, lead researcher of a Northeastern University study of Amazon's algorithmic pricing practices.

“This is very much a winner-take-all system. If you’re that one lucky seller who gets the ‘buy box,’ you make all the sales. So if you want to be competitive for the top-selling products, you pretty much have no choice: You have to be an algorithmic seller.”

The Commission and Amazon’s end game

The two sides now enter the fray hoping for a judgment in their favor. The Commission is going to be leaning heavily on an EU law that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. And in the other corner, Amazon will be battling to prove that it plays fair and square with third-party vendors.

“The conditions of competition on the Amazon platform must also be fair. Its rules should not artificially favour Amazon's own retail offers or advantage the offers of retailers using Amazon's logistics and delivery services,” Vestager said.

“With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”

Bad news landed on the doorstep at Amazon’s headquarters early Tuesday. The European Commission has informed the online retailer that it feels the company...

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Amazon launches points-based rewards program for Flex drivers

Perks for delivery drivers include debit card access and preferred scheduling

Amazon has launched a new rewards program for its Flex drivers -- independent contractors who make Amazon and Whole Foods deliveries with their own cars and cover their own expenses. 

On its website, the company has added a section called Amazon Flex Rewards. Amazon said the program gives drivers a chance to earn perks through the accrual of points. 

Perks include access to a Flex Debit Card and the ability to reserve preferred delivery shifts. Flex drivers can earn different perks depending on how much work they do for Amazon and how well they do it. 

“Amazon Flex Rewards is a program exclusively for Amazon Flex delivery partners to thank you for all the work you do,” the website states. “With Amazon Flex Rewards, you can earn cash back with the Amazon Flex Debit Card, enjoy Preferred Scheduling and access thousands of discounts as well as tools to navigate things like insurance and taxes.”

More points, different perks

The rewards program gives drivers the opportunity to earn points for each completed delivery. Additional points may be earned based on metrics like on-time delivery rates and overall standing in the app. 

CNBC points out that it can be difficult for Flex drivers to find work. Drivers usually only have a few seconds to “accept” a shift before someone else claims it. The rewards program has a perk to help alleviate some of the pressure to act fast.

Drivers who have earned 650 points can reserve shifts aligned with their preferences, such as their preferred delivery station and time of the day. They will have up to 30 minutes to accept a reserved shift. 

Amazon says it will reset drivers’ points after each three-month earnings period, but drivers will still have access to the perks they earned from the previous period. 

The company told CNBC that it’s in the early stages of launching the program. Eventually, all Flex drivers in the U.S. will have access to it. 

Amazon has launched a new rewards program for its Flex drivers -- independent contractors who make Amazon and Whole Foods deliveries with their own cars an...

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Amazon launches new data collection program to gain insight into consumer spending habits

The company is inviting customers to submit receipts and take surveys

Heads up, personal data protectors! Amazon is inviting its customers to take part in a “shopper panel” -- a program where they can earn rewards simply by taking part in surveys and by sharing receipts on purchases they've made outside of Amazon’s platform. 

In other words, Amazon wants to dive deeper into how you’re shopping, where you’re shopping, and the kinds of things you’re shopping for. 

The Amazon Shopper Panel is purely an opt-in, invitation-only program. It’s up to the consumer to decide if they want to share their personal shopping data. 

How it works

According to its website, the Shopper Panel plays out like this:

Rewards: To earn rewards, participants need to upload 10 eligible receipts per month via the Amazon Shopper Panel app, either by taking photos of paper receipts or by forwarding email receipts to the panel. Amazon says the participants who do will earn $10 towards their choice of either an Amazon available funds balance or as a donation to a specific charity. Customers will continue to earn rewards each month they participate and every survey they complete.

To get the hang of things, according to MobileMarketer, Amazon will use “machine learning” to process the receipts, overseen by human reviewers for "a small sample of submissions" to help train the system.

Surveys: The surveys are supposedly your standard fare stuff like opinions on brands and products. The number of surveys and earnings per survey will change month to month. 

How Amazon will use the data

Before anyone signs up for the program, they should know exactly how Amazon intends to use what it tracks. According to the company, its uses “may” include the following:

Advertising measurement: “We may use your purchase information to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns to help advertisers understand the relationship between ads and product purchases at an aggregate level. We will never share any personal information collected via the Amazon Shopper Panel with third parties.”

Inform models used for advertising: “We may use the information you provide to help us build models about which groups of customers are likely to be interested in certain products.”

Research: “We may use survey responses to help brands get feedback on new or existing products and help advertisers understand how customers respond to ads. We will never share any of your individual survey responses with third parties.”

Product and content selection: “We may use your purchase information and survey responses to improve the product selection on Amazon.com and affiliate stores such as Whole Foods Market and to improve the content offered through Amazon services such as Prime Video.”

Privacy issues?

Of course, given its record and past data breaches, the big question is how much will Amazon glean from following its customers’ purchases?

“Participation in the Amazon Shopper Panel is voluntary and panelists can stop using the app, sharing receipts, or answering survey questions at any time,” the company said. “Amazon only receives information that panelists explicitly choose to share via the Shopper Panel, such as the information extracted from any uploaded receipts (including product or retailer names) or survey responses.”

Amazon says it will delete any sensitive information -- using as an example, prescription information from drug store receipts -- and, according to MobileMarketer’s research, all information will be deleted after one year. 

Panelists also have the option to delete previously uploaded receipts at any time. 

“Amazon securely stores panelists’ personal information and handles it in accordance with Amazon’s Privacy Notice,” the company said.

Heads up, personal data protectors! Amazon is inviting its customers to take part in a “shopper panel” -- a program where they can earn rewards simply by t...

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Amazon expands Whole Foods one-hour pickup to all stores

The service is free for Prime members who spend $35 or more

Amazon has expanded its one-hour pickup to all 487 Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. The service is free for Amazon Prime members who submit orders of $35 or more.

The company says there’s little doubt that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the popularity of online grocery ordering and curbside pickup. Company executives say they expect this mode of shopping to become a permanent solution for many customers.

“In fact, more than 40 percent of Whole Foods Market pickup orders each month are from customers trying the service for the first time, the company wrote on its blog. “And, according to recent data from Global Data Research, almost 68 percent of consumers say they will continue to use curbside pickup even when the pandemic has subsided.”

Here’s how it works

Prime members can submit an order using the Amazon app or by visiting www.amazon.com, clicking the Whole Foods Market tab, selecting a pickup store, and selecting items.

When they’re ready to checkout, they can select a one-hour pickup window that works for them and place their order. 

When they’re ready to pick up their order, they check-in using the Amazon app to let store employees know they’re on their way. Amazon says the majority of customers who check-in using the Amazon App before arriving at the store wait just one minute to receive their orders after arriving. 

Becoming an industry norm

Curbside grocery pickup is fast becoming an industry norm. In June, Target announced an expansion of its pickup service, adding fresh and frozen grocery items that can be picked up at over 400 target stores.

The new additions include 750 items across produce, dairy, bakery, meat, and frozen products -- items like milk, bread, eggs, and ice cream, along with previously available staples.

Walmart also offers curbside grocery pickup, allowing customers to shop online and select the time they want to pick up their items. 

Amazon has expanded its one-hour pickup to all 487 Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. The service is free for Amazon Prime members who submit orders of...

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Amazon kicks off ‘Holiday Dash’ online sales event

The company wants to help shoppers ‘beat the holiday hustle’ by offering deals earlier than usual

Fresh on the heels of the end of its annual Prime Day sale, Amazon has launched its Holiday Dash sales event. On Friday, Amazon touted the sale as a way for consumers to “beat the holiday hustle” this year. 

Amazon will drop new deals every day between now and Black Friday. The deals will go live at 3 a.m. ET and will be good for 24 hours. 

Shoppers can get deals on items in a range of categories, including toys, fashion, electronics and home goods. Amazon will also offer discounts on services including Amazon Music, Audible Kindle, and Prime Video.

The e-commerce giant has also extended its returns window. Most items shipped now through December 31 can be returned through January 31, 2021.

Early start to holiday shopping season

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many brick-and-mortar retailers are giving consumers an early start by offering online deals earlier in the season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are expected to be mainly offered online since crowds are still best avoided amid the pandemic.

Walmart said in September that it would start offering Black Friday sales earlier on a wider variety of merchandise. Target also announced early holiday deals and said customers can expect to find nearly one million more deals than last year. 

A survey conducted recently by analysts at RetailMeNot.com showed that 41 percent of consumers plan to start shopping in October. Some respondents said they hope to do all of their shopping this month. 

Fresh on the heels of the end of its annual Prime Day sale, Amazon has launched its Holiday Dash sales event. On Friday, Amazon touted the sale as a way fo...

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Amazon’s third-party sellers enjoyed record-high sales this Prime Day

Prime Day ‘delivered the two biggest days ever for third-party sellers,’ Amazon said

Amazon said its Prime Day sales event led to its third-party sellers earning more than $3.5 billion this year. The company said that figure represents an increase of 60 percent compared to last year.  

“This Prime Day delivered the two biggest days ever for third-party sellers, nearly all of which are small and medium-sized businesses,” the company said in a release published Thursday. “Sellers saw record-breaking sales, surpassing $3.5 billion in total across 19 countries.” 

Third-party sellers’ Prime Day earnings have grown at a level that even Amazon’s own retail business hasn’t seen, the retailer said. 

Third-party seller success

Amazon said third-party sellers are an important part of its operation and that it’s committed to fostering the success of small and medium-sized businesses. 

"Amazon is on track to invest $18 billion this year to help small and medium-sized businesses succeed in its store, and designed this Prime Day to support small businesses even more—including funding a promotion that helped drive over $900 million in sales for small businesses in the two weeks leading up to Prime Day," the company said.

Amazon has more than 2.3 million small and medium-size businesses selling products on its marketplace. Products sold by these businesses account for around 60 percent of Amazon sales, according to the company.

Last year, third-party merchants made more than $2 billion in sales during Prime Day. 

Antitrust scrutiny

Amazon’s framing of Prime Day 2020 as a successful event for third-party sellers comes amid scrutiny over its treatment of those same merchants. Amazon was recently accused of releasing products through its private-label brand that are nearly identical to some sold by third-party sellers. 

Lawmakers concluded that Amazon uses third-party seller data to find out which items are popular, which raises concerns over how it uses its power to stifle competition.

“Amazon’s pattern of exploiting sellers, enabled by its market dominance, raises serious competition concerns,” the U.S. House Judiciary Committee antitrust subcommittee said in a report released earlier this month.

Amazon said its Prime Day sales event led to its third-party sellers earning more than $3.5 billion this year. The company said that figure represents an i...

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Amazon to use eco-friendly shipping boxes that come with augmented reality experience

During October, consumers can customize their package’s appearance and use a company app for a new virtual experience

Consumers who take advantage of Amazon’s Prime Day sales this year can expect to find slightly different looking packages on their doorstep. 

Between now and Halloween, Amazon will be shipping out packages with a new eco-friendly design and a picture of a large white pumpkin on the side. Drawing on the pumpkin and scanning the QR code will initiate an augmented reality experience on an accompanying app. 

After pulling up Amazon’s free AR app, “Amazon Augmented Reality,” consumers can scan the QR code near the pumpkin they customized. Doing so will activate an “interactive, shareable, augmented reality experience,” Amazon said. 

The new boxes are meant to draw attention to the company’s eco-friendly initiatives. 

More sustainable packaging

Aware of the impact its cardboard boxes have on the environment, Amazon has established an 85-person team that focuses on improving package design with the aim of reducing its environmental impact. 

The boxes are made using less material as part of Amazon’s “Less Packaging, More Smiles” campaign. The addition of the white pumpkin is meant to give consumers a fun experience before they recycle the box. 

"The new experience is a low-cost way for customers to celebrate and a fun way to reuse boxes before dropping them in the recycling bin," Amazon said in a statement. 

Amazon’s new AR app is currently available as a free download on iOS and Android.

Consumers who take advantage of Amazon’s Prime Day sales this year can expect to find slightly different looking packages on their doorstep. Between no...

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Amazon says almost 20,000 of its workers have contracted COVID-19

The company has been criticised for keeping its warehouses open during the pandemic

In a blog post on Friday, Amazon disclosed that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19. However, the company said its analysis suggested that the rate of infection among its 1.4 million workers was 42 percent lower than the “expected number” when compared to rates among the general population during the same period. 

Amazon, which saw its business increase significantly at the onset of the pandemic, has maintained that its fulfillment center and Whole Foods employees are safe under its enhanced COVID-19 health and safety measures. 

Despite its assurances, the company has faced criticism for keeping its warehouses open and not sharing data with the public and its workers about the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at its warehouses. 

Athena, a group of activists pushing for greater regulatory oversight of Amazon, said “Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.” Athena argues that Amazon allowed the virus to “spread like wildfire” in its facilities and needs to be investigated by public health officials. 

Sharing case rates

Amazon said it hoped that sharing the case rates would encourage other corporations to follow suit. 

"We hope sharing this data and our learnings will encourage others to follow and will prove useful as states make decisions about reopening public facilities and employers consider whether and how to bring people back to work," Amazon said.

The company noted that it’s put millions of dollars toward testing, new cleaning regimes, and in the purchase of protective gear. Officials say social distancing protocols have helped drive down the number of employees that need to quarantine after an employee tests positive.

The e-commerce giant also stressed that its facilities aren’t the only places individuals who have contracted COVID-19 could have picked it up. 

"These individuals can be exposed in many ways outside of work," Amazon said.

In a blog post on Friday, Amazon disclosed that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19. However, the...

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Amazon introduces contactless payments with Amazon One

The company says it’s got the security angle well in hand

With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for events, gyms, office buildings, etc. that allows people to simply hold their hand over a scanner for a couple of seconds and gain admission or pay for items. 

At present, the technology is available only at two Amazon Go stores, but the world can expect a more robust rollout if the pilot phase proves to be successful.

Working backwards

You might think that Amazon One came out of surface contact health safety issues related to COVID-19, but the idea’s genesis is the time drag that it takes consumers to slide a credit card in, approve a purchase, enter in PIN numbers, and the like.

“As with everything Amazon does, we started with the customer experience and worked backwards. We solved for things that are durable and have stood the test of time but often cause friction or wasted time for customers,” wrote Amazon’s Vice President of Amazon Physical Retail, Dilip Kumar in a blog post. 

“We wondered whether we could help improve experiences like paying at checkout, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or even badging into work. So, we built Amazon One to offer just that—a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

How it works

Interested consumers have the option to enroll at stores and venues using Amazon One; all it takes is scanning one palm or both. Simple as that. For customers to actually use the service, Kumar says that the technology requires an “intentional gesture” -- one where a person holds their hand over the device with the palm of the hand working as a biometric identifier. 

Privacy advocates will be watching Amazon like a hawk given the earlier concerns its foray into facial-recognition software raised with shareholders, employees, and the ACLU, but the company is ready to face the fire.

Kumar says that the palm images will be encrypted on a “highly secure area in the cloud” and not on a scanner at the location. To add a little more security, anyone can delete their personal Amazon One-related data any time at one.amazon.com. Interested consumers can also sign up for the service at that same website.

With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for ev...

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Amazon confirms Prime Day event to begin October 13

The online retailer is offering deals on millions of products and supporting businesses impacted by the pandemic

As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations in categories like toys, TVs, electronics, fashion, home, and, of course, Amazon devices.

Amazon says it’s collected more than a million deals to offer shoppers, including brand-specific items from adidas, Coleman, Under Armour, Keurig, Lacoste, and Panasonic.

Get a head start on the bargains

Prime Day has become more like Prime 15 Days because of the carrots the retailer started dangling on Tuesday. Below is a list of some deals shoppers can expect to see. (*All deals are accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change.)

  • Amazon Devices: Shoppers can buy two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 and Fire TV Recast for $129.99 so people can store up to 75 hours of programming. There’s also a deal on smart home security with Amazon’s Blink Mini indoor cameras, which will be discounted to $24.99 per unit.

  • Amazon Music: Amazon is still woefully behind Spotify in the number of paid subscribers, but it’s not giving up yet. For just 99 cents, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited (being a new subscriber is key, apparently) can get four free months of the premium, ad-free streaming tier.

  • Audible: Book lovers who like taking their books on the go in audio form can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus.

  • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50 percent off a 6-month subscription.

  • Amazon Fashion: The newest niche Amazon is shooting for is high fashion, so it’s no surprise that it’s rolling out some larger deals here. Fashion lovers can save up to 30 percent on select Vineyard Vines clothing for men, up to 15 percent on select fall fashion from Shopbop, and up to 30 percent on select styles from Calvin Klein.

  • Home: Deals include up to 20 percent or more off on furniture brands like Lane Home Furnishings, Walker Edison Furniture Company, and Nathan James. 

  • Tools: If Dad likes playing handyman, Mrs. Claus can get a head start on Christmas by saving up to 20 percent on select DEWALT saws and drills and up to 15 percent on select DEWALT impact driver and drill combo Kits.

  • Toys: Parents who like the “green” approach to life can save up to 30 percent on select toys from Green Toys.

Alexa, how do I pay for all of this?

Being the crafty retailer that it is, Amazon knows that a little extra grease won’t hurt; it’s offering a $100 gift card for consumers who sign up and are approved for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.. 

Prime member Echo Dot users can find daily deals by asking “Alexa, what are my Prime Day deals?” As a bonus, effectively immediately and lasting a limited time, new Prime members who sign up using the Echo Dot can get a $5 Amazon credit simply by saying, “Alexa, sign me up for Prime.”

Amazon is also taking a QVC-ish angle with Amazon Live. Pitching everything from kitchen appliances to fashion wear, the hosted Amazon Live stream will show off products and take advantage of special deals the instant they go live. To watch, visit Amazon’s site here and via the Amazon Shopping app on Fire TV.

Prime Day 2020 also has a kind gesture to all the small businesses who pushed forward through COVID-19. In support of those efforts, Amazon is investing an additional $100 million in special Prime Day and holiday promotional programs by offering a $10 credit to use on Prime Day to members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.

As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations...

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Amazon Prime Day 2020 will likely kick off on October 13

Shoppers can expect deals on everything from the Apple Watch to Amazon Alexa-based products

It’s Prime time, Amazon shoppers. Reports are circulating that the online retailer has marked Tuesday, October 13 as the kickoff for Prime Day 2020. This year’s date comes a little later than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CNET cites people with knowledge of Amazon’s plans as saying that the company has blocked off October 13-20 as an all-hands-on-deck week for its warehouse workers.

When asked for confirmation, an Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the specific date. “Stay tuned for more details on Prime Day. Customers can also say, 'Alexa, keep me posted on Prime Day,” they said.

Best guesses on what consumers can expect

Amazon has always used Prime Day as a launch pad for things like gadgets, and this year should be no different. To whet consumer appetites, the odds are that Amazon will roll out those items this Thursday, September 24, the date for its annual fall product launch. 

If Prime Day 2019 is any indication, tech lovers can expect even more Alexa-equipped products. There's currently no indication of what exactly to expect, but it's safe to assume that Alexa-equipped gear will take center stage. 

The New York Times tech savants’ best guesses were for heavy discounts on Amazon-owned Ring and Eero, kitchen appliances from OXO and Instant Pot, home appliances like robot-vacuums, and devices like the Apple Watch Series 5.

One thing almost sure to get some time in this year’s Prime spotlight is Amazon’s new foray into the high fashion game. Just last week, the global retailer announced that it has teamed up with fashion and beauty brands to launch Luxury Stores, a new shopping experience offering both established and emerging fashion and beauty lines. Oscar de la Renta was tapped as the first brand to be featured in the rollout. 

It’s Prime time, Amazon shoppers. Reports are circulating that the online retailer has marked Tuesday, October 13 as the kickoff for Prime Day 2020. This y...

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Amazon looks for gig workers to pick up and deliver orders at Whole Foods

One industry watcher is questioning how well gig drivers know their way around a store

With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. Amazon is now recruiting contract workers to both shop for and deliver groceries for Whole Foods Market customers who order their groceries online.

According to a Bloomberg report, drivers can easily sign up for the Shop and Deliver program by simply reviewing an online tutorial about how Whole Foods products are picked, packed, and handled, as well as scoring a passing grade on a quiz.

Until now, Whole Foods relied on its own employees to assemble online orders, but the program model is akin to Amazon Flex, an initiative the company rolled out several years ago that relies on independent contractors to deliver packages. 

Inherent issues

From its catbird seat, various grocery industry watchers raised questions about Amazon’s move. 

“By entrusting gig workers to put orders together for Whole Foods customers, Amazon is potentially increasing the risk that items could be damaged, spoiled or delivered late that is inherent in grocery e-commerce,” GroceryDive’s Sam Silverstein wrote.

Another question raised was that while delivery service is an easy thing to learn, in-store tasks like picking aren’t.

“Delivery from A to B is a beautiful on-demand task because it’s very straightforward, very repeatable and you don’t need a lot of training, [but] tasks in stores are often much more complicated,” Jordan Berke, a former Walmart executive and e-commerce expert who runs Tomorrow Retail Consulting, told GroceryDive.

“A person that comes to your store once a day or once every two days to pick two orders is always learning, while a person that picks 50 orders five days a week” has a better opportunity to become familiar with the lay of the land inside a grocery store, and is more likely to know where items are located and how they should be handled.

Potential good news for consumers

Online grocery shopping is growing in leaps and bounds. The segment is expected to grow from about $38 million in 2018 to nearly $60 billion by 2023. Amazon and Walmart are in a pretty secure place for the moment -- and keep upping the ante -- but more and more companies are trying to elbow their way in like Uber and DoorDash. The upside for consumers is that companies are constantly trying to find ways to keep prices as low as possible. 

“They’re always going to look for ways to keep their cost of service as low as possible, and always look for ways to be super responsive in fulfilling customer demand,” Tom Furphy, former Amazon vice president of consumables and Amazon Fresh, told GroceryDive. 

“Those are three constants that will always exist as long as Amazon’s around, and they will absolutely look to deliver on that in the grocery environment.

With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. A...

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Amazon moves into the high-fashion game with Luxury Stores

The online giant may smell opportunity with many high-end retailers closing because of the pandemic

Amazon has raised bar after bar in the online shopping world, but now it’s raising the bar in the fashion industry. 

On Tuesday, the global retailer announced that it has teamed up with fashion and beauty brands to launch Luxury Stores, a new shopping experience offering both established and emerging fashion and beauty lines viewable in 360-degree detail.

Oscar de la Renta has been tapped as the first brand to be featured. The eponymous fashion house will show off its Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections, inclusive of ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume, with children's wear to follow.

Upping the game with new technology

The Luxury Stores app debuts with a technology innovation that will certainly benefit clothing sellers. “View in 360” allows customers to explore styles in 360-degree detail to better visualize fit, which Amazon hopes will make shopping for luxury more alluring and as close to an in-store experience as possible. 

“With collections sold directly from the participating brands as a ‘store within a store’ experience, brands independently make decisions regarding their inventory, selection, and pricing – and Amazon offers the merchandising tools for brands to create and personalize content in each of their unique brand voices,” the company said in a news release. 

Amazon sensed change in the fashion world

Seeing a raft of high-end retailers -- Ann Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, et al -- go out of business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has to be smelling an opportunity, particularly in the realm of distribution.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette recently spoke with CNBC about the opportunity he saw in the luxury apparel space, given the spate of high-end stores going belly-up and leaving customers waiting to be had. 

“Bloomingdale’s is having a moment,” he said about Macy’s higher-end department store banner. “We have brands in our arsenal that we didn’t have before that are looking for additional distribution.” 

For the time being, Luxury Stores is available in the Amazon app by invitation only. Eligible U.S. Prime members have been the first to be invited to experience Luxury Stores. Prime members who have not yet received an invitation via email can request one by visiting the company’s website here.

Amazon has raised bar after bar in the online shopping world, but now it’s raising the bar in the fashion industry. On Tuesday, the global retailer ann...

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Amazon to hire 100,000 workers to handle increased e-commerce demand

The company wants to be prepared for the coming holiday season

To help deal with steeper-than-normal e-commerce demand stemming from the pandemic, Amazon is bringing on even more workers. 

The company announced Monday that it will hire 100,000 more workers -- its fourth hiring spree this year. The positions are for both full and part-time work in the U.S. and Canada. Amazon said the positions that are available are also at 100 package sorting centers and other facilities it is opening in September.

“We are opening 100 buildings this month alone across new fulfillment and sortation centers, delivery stations, and other sites,” Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations at Amazon, said in a statement.

The positions have a starting wage of at least $15 per hour. In select cities, Amazon will give new hires sign-on bonuses of up to $1,000. 

Increasing hiring

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon has struggled to keep up with the surge in demand. With the busy holiday season just ahead, Amazon is bracing for yet another spike in online orders. 

In addition to hiring more workers, Amazon said it will also be adding automation at its new buildings to speed up operations.  

“We will continue to deploy technology where appropriate, starting from a safety perspective” and “where we can improve our overall operation,” Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment, told CNBC. 

In announcing its latest recruitment drive, Amazon reiterated its commitment to keeping its workers safe during the pandemic. 

“Collectively, our new team members have already completed more than 1,200,000 hours of safety training, with over 500,000 more hours expected, to ensure that in addition to fast and efficient delivery for our customers, we’re providing a safe and modern environment for our employees and partners,” Clark said

To help deal with steeper-than-normal e-commerce demand stemming from the pandemic, Amazon is bringing on even more workers. The company announced Mond...

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Customer reviews suggest dozens of AmazonBasics products are hazardous

An investigation found reviews that described fires, electrical malfunctions, and other safety risks

At least 70 products sold under Amazon’s “AmazonBasics” brand could pose a safety risk, according to a report from CNN. 

During an investigation, CNN found more than a thousand customer reviews in which customers described startling events while using certain products. Customers said products were often associated with fires and other safety issues. 

“Since 2016, at least 1,500 reviews, covering more than 70 items, have described products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks,” CNN said.

Some products remain up for sale

The affected products, many of which are still for sale on Amazon, include USB charging cables, a microwave, battery chargers, and office equipment. 

In one case involving a microwave, a customer review said that the voice-activated appliance caught fire after a child heated up a macaroni and cheese cup. CNN investigated the product on its own and found that the microwave “began sparking and smoking” as soon as it was turned on. 

In another review, a customer said an AmazonBasics USB cable melted on an office chair, ignited the upholstery, and started a house fire. 

Amazon has discontinued some of the products CNN identified as problematic. However, the publication noted that around 30 items with three or more reviews include words like “hazard” or “fire” or suggest that the product should be recalled. 

In a statement, Amazon said its AmazonBasics microwave is safe to use and that it thoroughly vets its products for safety. 

“We take the safety of our products seriously, and are confident that the AmazonBasics Microwave is safe to use,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We take several steps to ensure our products are safe including rigorous testing by our safety teams and third-party labs. The appliance continues to meet or exceed all certification requirements established by the FDA, UL, FCC, Prop 65, and others for safety and functionality.”

At least 70 products sold under Amazon’s “AmazonBasics” brand could pose a safety risk, according to a report from CNN. During an investigation, CNN fo...

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Consumer groups claim Amazon is still inflating prices of essential products

Amazon says it has removed thousands of merchants for price violations

In separate reports this week, two consumer watchdog groups said Amazon and third-party sellers on its platform are still inflating prices of essential products.

In the early days of the pandemic, many consumers complained that some Amazon merchants were selling hand sanitizer and paper towels at more than 10 times the prices they were charging in January. Researchers for Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) say six months later the practice continues. They say consumers shopping for these items need to consult more than one online platform to find the best price.

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon and that’s why our teams are monitoring our store 24/7 and have already removed over a million offers for attempted price gouging,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Face masks, toilet paper, and soap

Amazon has published its pricing policy online and previously pointed out that it has suspended approximately 4,000 third-party merchants for violating its pricing policies, suggesting that the issue is being resolved.

But the two groups insist they have found evidence to the contrary. Public Citizen reports finding inflated prices for the last six months on things like face masks, toilet paper, and antibacterial soap that have been marked up as much as 1000 percent. It says the overpriced items included those labeled as “sold by Amazon,” as well as items sold by third-party merchants.

“Amazon has fundamentally misled the public, law enforcement and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic,” said Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen and author of the report. “Amazon has publicly blamed third-party sellers for price increases while continuing to raise prices on its own products and allowing those sellers to increase their prices.”

Harman said the report underscores the need for a federal price-gouging law and for Amazon to “implement major reforms to its pricing and product listing practices.” Amazon, itself, voiced support for federal price-gouging legislation earlier this year.

Examples

Public Citizen listed these items, marketed over the last six months, as examples of price gouging:

  • A pack of 50 disposable face masks increased by 1,000 percent

  • Dial liquid antibacterial hand soap increased by 470 percent

  • A pack of 100 disposable hand gloves increased by 336 percent

  • A pack of eight 1000-sheet toilet paper rolls increased by 528 percent

  • A pack of eight Brawny paper towels increased by 303 percent

  • A five-pound eight-pack of Pillsbury unbleached flour increased by 425 percent

  • A one-pound box of Domino powdered sugar increased by 520 percent

  • A 6.5-ounce pack of Clabber Girl corn starch increased by 1,010 percent

The USPIRG report looked at 10 staple products found on many shopping lists during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list specifically included hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and digital thermometers. 

“Of these items, options from Amazon were two to fourteen times more expensive than the identical products sold at other retailers,” the authors wrote. 

In separate reports this week, two consumer watchdog groups said Amazon and third-party sellers on its platform are still inflating prices of essential pro...

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Amazon bans sale of foreign seeds to U.S. customers

The move was prompted by this summer’s mystery seed deliveries

Amazon has banned the sale of foreign seeds to customers in the U.S. after packets of unordered seeds, many postmarked from China, began showing up on U.S. consumers’ doorsteps over the summer.

The Wall Street Journal reports an email sent by Amazon to foreign sellers last week informed them of the decision. The online retailer reportedly began removing some seed and plant offers on September 3.

Amazon’s action is seen as a precautionary move. U.S. officials have expressed concern that invasive foreign plants introduced to the United States could threaten U.S. agriculture. The seeds in question are seen as suspicious since no one ordered them and no one seems to know where they came from.

The email cited by The Journal said the step is part of the company’s efforts to protect customers and improve the customer experience. An Amazon spokesperson essentially confirmed the ban over the weekend.

Limited to U.S. seed sellers

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said in a statement issued to The Journal. 

Various investigators for the U.S. government, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have spent the last few weeks trying to determine the source of the mystery seed shipments. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry has maintained from the start that the mailing labels indicating the seeds were shipped from China were forged. 

Investigators who spoke to The Journal suggest the mystery seed shipments are simply a tactic some online sellers use to raise their profile on Amazon. By sending an inexpensive item like seeds to thousands of consumers, the seller may rank higher on Amazon’s platform.

The battle against invasive plants

USDA’s Forest Service fights an ongoing battle against invasive plants that thrive once they take root in the U.S. and overtake other native plants. According to USDA, invasive species have contributed to the decline of 42 percent of U.S. endangered and threatened species.

As a result, overall plant diversity can be decreased because invasive species compete with native plants for moisture, sunlight, nutrients, and space.

When you think of a non-native, invasive plant in the U.S. you need only think of the kudzu plant that has taken over large areas of southern states. Nature magazine reports an established kudzu plant grows at a rate of one foot per day with mature vines as long as 100 feet.

Amazon has banned the sale of foreign seeds to customers in the U.S. after packets of unordered seeds, many postmarked from China, began showing up on U.S....

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Amazon opens first online-only Whole Foods

The company is striving to meet growing demand for online grocery delivery

On Tuesday, Amazon opened a new online-only Whole Foods store in Brooklyn. 

The company said it started working on the store a year ago, but grocery delivery has now become even more important due to the pandemic. 

“Grocery delivery continues to be one of the fastest-growing businesses at Amazon,” the company said in a blog post announcing the store. “We’re thrilled to increase access to grocery delivery. It’s never been more important.”

Hundreds of employees have been hired to facilitate grocery delivery at the new store, which is located in Brooklyn’s Industry City complex. 

Filling online demand

The interior of the new online-only facility features long aisles of shelving where team members can shop for products and prepare orders. Produce will be stored in a refrigerated cooler. 

Going forward, Amazon says it will be continuing to evaluate ways to increase grocery delivery since there’s clear demand for it. Compared to this time last year, online grocery sales have tripled. Amazon said it increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160 percent to meet a spike in demand. That surge was fueled largely by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Delivery is here to stay. People like options and this is an option that they really love,” a company spokesperson told USA Today. 

Amazon is also endeavoring to expand its footprint in the brick-and-mortar grocery industry. In August, The company opened the first location of its new chain of Fresh grocery stores. The e-commerce giant already operates more than 500 Whole Foods stores. 

In addition to those stores, Amazon has also opened a number of cashless convenience stores called Amazon Go. The stores rely on technology that enables consumers to skip the checkout process. 

On Tuesday, Amazon opened a new online-only Whole Foods store in Brooklyn. The company said it started working on the store a year ago, but grocery del...

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Amazon gets FAA approval for Prime Air

The company says the approval brings it closer to 30-minute drone deliveries to customers

Amazon has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. 

The FAA said it decided to issue a "Part 135 air carrier certificate” to Amazon Prime Air because drone delivery will be beneficial to the public. The agency said it’s confident in Amazon’s drone operating and safety procedures. 

"Amazon Prime Air's concept uses autonomous [unmanned aircraft systems] to safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers," said a spokesperson for the FAA on Monday. "The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis."

Drone deliveries

The FAA approval brings Amazon closer to delivering packages to everyday consumers by drone. 

“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air,” said David Carbon, Amazon’s vice president in charge of Prime Air, in a statement. He also added that the decision “indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

The e-commerce giant announced its plans for Prime Air back in 2013. The company said at the time that it was working toward creating drones that can deliver packages weighing up to five pounds to customers’ houses in less than half an hour.

Amazon says the FAA’s approval will pave the way for its Prime Air 30-minute drone delivery plan to become a reality. It also says the approval will allow it to start testing customer deliveries through the program.

Amazon has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. The FAA...

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Amazon launches supermarket chain built around technology

The first Amazon Fresh store is opening in the Los Angeles market

Amazon has taken the wraps off of its concept for the supermarket of the future. Amazon Fresh stores will be like just about any other grocery store except that it will be built around technology.

The first Amazon Fresh store, named for Amazon’s grocery delivery service, is in the process of opening its doors in Woodland Hills, in the Los Angeles metro.

Amazon is already firmly planted in the grocery business, owning Whole Foods Market. That chain is designed to appeal to consumers who prefer natural and organic products. Shoppers won’t find Coca-Cola or some other mainstream products in its aisles.

Help from Alexa

Amazon Fresh is targeted at the average grocery shopper who values convenience. Amazon says it’s using technology to make the shopping experience easier and faster.

For example, how many times have you wandered the aisles of a large supermarket trying to find a particular item? At Amazon Fresh, shoppers will find Amazon Echo Show smart displays throughout the store, guiding them to the proper aisle for whatever they might be looking for.

The shopping carts are also packed with technology. The stores will feature the Amazon Dash Cart that scans items as you put them in the basket, links to online shopping lists, and provides checkout services.

Shoppers will use their Amazon app to “log in” to their cart. As they pick up items and put them in the cart, onboard scanners record the items using bar codes. For produce, the cart weighs the item and calculates the price.

"Grocery is a very large consumer sector; by most measures, it's $800 billion in the U.S.," Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh stores, told CNN. "And collectively, we're relatively small in the space."

Similar to Amazon Go

But Amazon has plans to get bigger. In addition to its Whole Foods chain, the company has pioneered a number of cashless convenience stores called Amazon Go that are also heavily dependent on technology.

Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle in early 2018. Shoppers are able to move down the aisles, pick up items, and then go on their way without having to pass through a checkout line.

Cameras and sensors placed on items and around the store will carefully track what consumers take, then charge their credit cards. That requires consumers who want to shop at the futuristic store to have a smartphone and to download the Amazon Go app.

The new Amazon Fresh stores will employ a similar concept. After the Los Angeles area store opens, Amazon has plans to open six more -- three more in California and three in Illinois.

Amazon has taken the wraps off of its concept for the supermarket of the future. Amazon Fresh stores will be like just about any other grocery store except...

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Appeals court says Amazon can be held liable for third-party sellers’ defective products

The decision could have great consequences for the online retailer going forward

An appeals court has ruled that Amazon can be held liable for any defective product sold on its Marketplace, at least in California. 

The backstory behind the decision is rather simple: an Amazon customer purchased a laptop battery from a third-party seller on Amazon. Amazon charged the customer for the purchase and then retrieved and shipped the laptop battery to the customer in Amazon-branded packaging. However, the customer alleges that the battery exploded several months later, causing third-degree burns. 

The customer sued everyone related to the product, including Amazon and the third-party seller. The suit claimed causes of action for strict products liability, negligent products liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and “negligence/negligent undertaking.” 

The third-party seller was served a summons to appear but never showed up, leaving a wrinkle that Amazon used to move for summary judgment, arguing that the product liability didn’t apply to it because it had nothing to do with distributing, manufacturing, or selling the defective battery. It claimed its website was nothing more than an “online marketplace” and that it was the third-party seller that should be held responsible instead. 

The trial court agreed, granted Amazon’s motion, and entered judgment accordingly in 2019. But the decision reached Thursday by the appeals court reverses that ruling and brings into question whether Amazon will be held liable for other defective products in the future.

The shape of things to come

Unless the appeals court’s ruling is undone by another court, the fact that Amazon -- or any online consumer goods platform -- is responsible in a situation like the one detailed above could carry a grim outlook.

For years, Amazon has maintained that it only serves as a go-between in a sale between a buyer and a third-party seller that operates on the Amazon Marketplace. Taking that posture has protected the company from other legal actions, but now that could all change. 

Appeals court says Amazon can be liable for third-party sellers’ defective productsThe decision could have great consequences for online retailers goin...

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Amazon could convert mall spaces into fulfillment centers

The company has been in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group

Amazon is reportedly in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group to convert some of its department store spaces into Amazon fulfillment centers.

Sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Amazon is interested in filling voids left by J.C.Penney and Sears, or even buying locations that are still in use. The sources didn’t say how many stores Amazon is considering purchasing or where they are.  

The discussion began before the pandemic, according to the sources. Amazon reportedly wants to put its low-cost grocery stores in former J.C. Penney spaces. The Journal noted that having fulfillment centers located close to residential areas would help Amazon make deliveries more quickly.

The news comes at a time when many retailers are struggling to stay afloat. Amazon’s business has improved significantly over the last few months because more people are working from home and buying online. During the second quarter, Amazon said its earnings were double that of the year prior at $5.2 billion. 

Amazon is reportedly in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group to convert some of its department store spaces into Amazon fulfillment centers.Sourc...

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Amazon reports huge surge in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic

The company said its online grocery sales tripled in the second quarter

In its second quarter earnings report, Amazon said a pandemic-related surge in consumer demand resulted in a tripling of its online grocery sales compared to the same quarter last year. 

The company said it had to increase grocery delivery capacity by more than 160 percent to meet demand during the unexpected health crisis.

“This was another highly unusual quarter, and I couldn’t be more proud of and grateful to our employees around the globe,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. 

Surge in business

While buying was initially focused on consumables and groceries, consumers eventually shifted to buying a more normal mix of products as the pandemic continued. Amazon said third-party sales increased by 52 percent year-over-year during the quarter, while first-party sales increased 48 percent year-over-year. 

Shipping times were significantly slower at the start of the pandemic. Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with analysts that shipping rates have returned to a somewhat normal rate but are still “probably considerably behind the going rate before any of this happened.” 

Amazon said it ramped up spending on equipment and services to keep its employees safe. 

“As expected, we spent over $4 billion on incremental COVID-19-related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers in this time of high demand—purchasing personal protective equipment, increasing cleaning of our facilities, following new safety process paths, adding new backup family care benefits, and paying a special thank you bonus of over $500 million to front-line employees and delivery partners.” 

Amazon expects its overall sales in the third quarter to amount to between $87 billion and $93 billion, which would represent an increase of around 24 to 33 percent compared to the third quarter of 2019. 

The company also confirmed on Thursday that its Prime Day sales event, which typically takes place in July, will now be held in the fourth quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon said it's working closely with its selling partners to ensure the event goes smoothly. 

In its second quarter earnings report, Amazon said a pandemic-related surge in consumer demand resulted in a tripling of its online grocery sales compared...

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Amazon rolls out redesigned Alexa app with personalized suggestions

The new Alexa app will focus on how and when consumers use Alexa

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s starting to roll out a revamped version of its Alexa app. The app will be available for iPhones, tablets, and smartphones running Google's Android platform, as well as for Amazon’s Fire tablets.

The redesigned app will have a new home screen featuring a more personalized experience. Instead of emphasizing third-party skills, the new homepage will focus on “how consumers are actually using Alexa.”

The new home screen will be updated with personalized recommendations based on how each individual utilizes their Alexa device. For example, users who play music frequently will see music commands featured on their home screen. Previously, users may have seen irrelevant prompts on the home screen. The redesign de-prioritizes third-party voice apps or skills. 

Meanwhile, first-time users will see suggestions on how to get started with Alexa, how to add to their Amazon shopping list, or how to use other services like Amazon Music. Amazon said it’s also moving the Alexa button from the bottom of the app to the top in the interest of making it easier to find.  

Amazon expects all users to be granted access to its updated digital assistant by late August. 

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s starting to roll out a revamped version of its Alexa app. The app will be available for iPhones, tablets, and smartpho...

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Amazon expands field test of delivery robot

Trials are now taking place in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee

Amazon is expanding trials of its delivery robot, Scout, to additional states. The delivery robot started operating in a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington in early 2019 and later started delivering packages at a larger test site in Irvine, California. 

The company announced Tuesday that it has now launched a “small number of Amazon Scout devices” in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee. The delivery robots will operate Monday through Friday, during daylight hours only. 

Amazon said customers in the test areas will order “just as they normally would,” but their packages could be delivered by Amazon Scout. All Scout devices will be accompanied by a human minder called an Amazon Scout Ambassador, at least “initially,” says Amazon.

Meeting increased demand

The e-commerce giant said it’s been working hard on ensuring that the cooler-sized autonomous devices can safely navigate around a number of objects. 

“Amazon Scout delivery devices are built to be inherently safe. They’re the size of a small cooler and move at a walking pace. Each delivery device can navigate around pets, pedestrians, and other objects (including surfboards!) in its path,” the company said in a press release.

Amazon added that its trials of Scout have continued during the pandemic. The robots are intended to help bolster the company’s mission of meeting increased customer demand during the health crisis and beyond. 

“Amazon has been providing an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic and working hard to get customers the products they need so they can continue to stay safe. Amazon Scout is quietly playing its part in this effort, too.” 

Amazon is expanding trials of its delivery robot, Scout, to additional states. The delivery robot started operating in a neighborhood in Snohomish County,...

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Amazon asks employees to delete TikTok from their work phones

The company says the video app contains ‘security risks’

Amazon has asked employees to delete TikTok from their work phones due to unspecified “security risks,” according to a company email seen by the New York Times. Employees who fail to delete the app by Friday will lose access to their Amazon email, the company said. 

“Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email,” Amazon said. “If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul to retain mobile access to Amazon email. At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.” 

Amazon didn’t elaborate on what kind of security risk the video app poses, but the app’s security has come into question lately following the discovery of glitches. 

Privacy concerns 

TikTok, which is owned by China-based tech company Bytedance, was recently found to have improperly accessed user clipboard data when running in the background. 

“Following the beta release of iOS 14 on June 22, users saw notifications while using a number of popular apps. For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior,” a company spokesperson said last month. 

Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, told Fox News on Monday that the Trump administration is considering blocking some Chinese apps, including TikTok, calling them a risk to national security.

TikTok said it doesn’t understand why Amazon decided to demand that employees remove the app, but the company says it is willing to have a discussion on the matter.

“While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community,” a spokesperson said in a statement. 

TikTok said last month that it’s “committed to protecting users’ privacy and being transparent about how our app works.” 

Amazon has asked employees to delete TikTok from their work phones due to unspecified “security risks,” according to a company email seen by the New York T...

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Amazon settles allegations that it violated multiple U.S. sanctions

The company allegedly sold goods and services to people blacklisted by the Treasury Department

Amazon has agreed to pay $134,523 to settle its potential civil liability over “multiple” alleged sanctions violations. 

The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement on Wednesday that the charges apply specifically to items and services sent to people located in Crimea, Iran, and Syria between November 2011 and October 2018. These countries and regions are covered by Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions. 

“As a result of deficiencies related to Amazon’s sanctions screening processes, Amazon provided goods and services to persons sanctioned by OFAC; to persons located in the sanctioned region or countries of Crimea, Iran, and Syria; and to individuals located in or employed by the foreign missions of countries sanctioned by OFAC,” the statement said.

Additionally, the Department added that “several hundred” Amazon transactions weren’t disclosed in a timely manner. 

“Amazon also failed to timely report several hundred transactions conducted pursuant to a general license issued by OFAC that included a mandatory reporting requirement, thereby nullifying that authorization with respect to those transactions,” the Treasury Department said. 

“The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s determination that Amazon’s apparent violations were non-egregious and voluntarily self-disclosed, and further reflects the significant remedial measures implemented by Amazon upon discovery of the apparent violations. 

Not malicious lawbreaking

The Department added that it doesn’t believe Amazon deliberately engaged in unlawful activity. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Amazon’s system “failed to fully analyze all transaction and customer data relevant to compliance.” 

In 2019, Apple paid around $467,000 to settle similar allegations. The tech giant voluntarily disclosed the alleged violations and said it was an accidental oversight. 

"In 2017, we found that we had inadvertently paid a developer on [the] U.S. Treasury's List of Specially Designated Nationals," an Apple spokesman said last year. "We reported it to the authorities and fully cooperated with their investigation, which has now been completed."

Amazon has agreed to pay $134,523 to settle its potential civil liability over “multiple” alleged sanctions violations. The U.S. Treasury Department sa...

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Amazon to require third-party sellers to publicly disclose names and addresses

Consumers will be able to easily track down sellers who may have sold a counterfeit or unsafe item

Amazon has informed its third-party sellers in the United States that they will soon have to display their business name and address on their public seller profiles. 

Amazon said the change is intended to give consumers more insight into who they’re buying from. Sellers are already required to disclose this information to Amazon, but the policy change will make it so that the information is available for everyone to see. 

“We are making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions,” the company said Wednesday in a notice to sellers.

The change will take effect starting September 1. 

Expanding information available to consumers

By enacting the new policy, Amazon is aiming to provide greater transparency to U.S. consumers and crack down on issues like counterfeit items and unsafe or expired products. Listing seller information will make it easier for customers to get in contact with the seller or take legal action in the event that they purchased an item that caused harm. 

Amazon has already implemented a similar policy across its stores in Europe, Japan, and Mexico in accordance with local laws. In its announcement Wednesday, Amazon said it’s striving for consistency in its marketplace policies. 

“Over the years, we have developed many ways for sellers to share more about their business, including through features like the seller profile pages, ‘Store’ pages for brand owners, and Handmade ‘Maker Profile’ pages,” an Amazon spokesperson said. 

“These features help customers learn more about sellers’ businesses and their products. Beginning September 1, we will also display sellers’ business name and address on their Amazon.com seller profile page to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.” 

Amazon’s U.S. marketplace is its largest, with 461,000 active sellers based in the U.S. 

Amazon has informed its third-party sellers in the United States that they will soon have to display their business name and address on their public seller...

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Amazon hands out $500 million in thank you checks to front-line workers

The one-time bonuses range from $150 to $3,000

In the midst of all the coronavirus-related push-and-pull between Amazon and its employees, there’s a new one to add to the positive side of the equation.

Late Monday, a memo was sent to the company’s front-line employees and partners with the promise of a sizeable monetary bonus as thanks for all the workers have done during the COVID-19 pandemic -- including getting orders in and out the door, helping customers in stores, and anything that’s part of the Amazon-to-customer relationship.

“Our front-line operations teams have been on an incredible journey over the last few months, and we want to show our appreciation with a special one-time Thank You bonus totaling over $500 million,” wrote Dave Clark, Amazon’s Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Operations.

Rewards for employees and partners

Amazon stated that all front-line employees and partners who were with the company throughout the month of June (June 1 – June 30, 2020) will receive a bonus of:

  • $500 for full-time Amazon employees, Whole Foods Market employees, and Delivery Service Partner drivers

  • $250 for part-time Amazon employees, Whole Foods Market employees, and Delivery Service Partner drivers

  • $1,000 for all front-line Amazon and Whole Foods Market leaders

  • $3,000 for our Delivery Service Partner owners

  • $150 for each Amazon Flex driver with more than 10 hours in June

“Again, my thanks and gratitude for the truly remarkable commitment to customers you have shown throughout this journey. I have never been more proud of our teams,” Clark concluded.

Amazon employees took to Reddit to express their gratitude, although there were a few who grumbled about supposedly having to wait until the end of July to see the money in their account. There was also some dissatisfaction coming from Amazon employees who work from home and appear to be cut out of the bonuses.

In the midst of all the coronavirus-related push-and-pull between Amazon and its employees, there’s a new one to add to the positive side of the equation....

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Amazon’s brand value jumps amid the coronavirus shutdown

The online retailer sits atop a ranking of the most valuable brand

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to shut down large parts of the U.S. economy in March, some companies struggled while others did quite well. Amazon is a prime example.

In their annual ranking -- BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands -- WPP and Kantar keep Amazon at number one, reporting that the last few months have only served to enhance its position atop the retail food chain.

Amazon has moved up the rankings since 2006. In this year’s evaluation of businesses, the Amazon brand increased in value by nearly $100 billion, growing 32 percent. Amazon’s brand value of $415 billion accounts for a third of the Top 100's total growth.

The ranking is based on a number of factors, including its stock price performance from April 2020 to reflect the impact of COVID-19. A handful of companies, most of which are highly valued by consumers, were able to consistently invest in longer-term marketing and make their brands even stronger during the health and economic crisis.

A strong showing by tech companies

In addition to Amazon, other technology brands are clustered at the top of this year’s ranking.  Apple maintained its position as the second most valuable global brand, growing 14 percent to $352.2 billion. 

Microsoft moved back up to the number three position, turning in a 30 percent gain in value to $326.5 billion. Google slipped to fourth place, growing its brand by 5 percent to a value of $323.6 billion.

Microsoft benefited from the shift to a work-from-home environment, enjoying strong growth in its cloud-enabled workplace ecosystem that incorporates Office365 and Microsoft Teams to allow people to maintain 'business as usual' during the lockdown.

Other technology companies improving their brand standing this year include Netflix, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Xbox.

"The continued growth in value of the BrandZ Top 100 shows that strong brands are in a much better place than they were in the global economic crisis of 2008-2009,” said David Roth, chairman of BrandZ. “While the impact of COVID-19 has impacted every business regardless of size or geography, consistent investment in marketing can and will help carry you through a crisis."

With most consumers ordering everything from dinner to household supplies from home, payment systems also improved their brand values during the shutdown. Visa held onto 5th place with 5 percent growth and Mastercard moved from 12th to 10th place in the rankings.

In the top 10, Facebook and McDonald’s were the only brands to lose ground this year. Facebook saw the value of its brand decline by 7 percent while McDonald’s lost only 1 percent.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to shut down large parts of the U.S. economy in March, some companies struggled while others did quite well. Amazon is...

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Amazon creates new Counterfeit Crimes Unit to wipe out fake products

The company says it will go to the ends of the earth to track down the fakers and bring them to justice

Amazon has been fighting counterfeit goods for years, but now it’s going after the fakers hard and heavy. 

On Wednesday, it announced that it has established a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit -- an initiative with a dual purpose: to keep the fake products off their platform and bring the hoodwinkers to justice.

As shopping moves online, consumers need more protection

Any consumer who’s sought out the “deal of a lifetime” has probably come across fake, counterfeit products. As consumer habits move from brick and mortar retailers to online ones, the problem has gotten worse. 

Especially hard hit is the clothing product sector. As of 2020, annual sales losses from counterfeiting in the clothing sector alone amounted to nearly $27 billion -- an amount nearly equal to the $30 billion in sales that Amazon rings up in that category.

Another concern is consumer safety. Rarely thought of as a side-effect of a counterfeit product, just last year, an investigation indicated that thousands of items on Amazon’s site were either banned or declared unsafe by federal agencies.

Attack mode

Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit is a far cry from the typical Amazon warehouse jobs we read about. Rather, it’s a brigade of former federal prosecutors, veteran investigators, and data analysts.

Amazon says its first order of business is to prevent a counterfeit from ever being listed on its platform. The company says its current anti-counterfeit programs have ensured that 99.9 percent of all Amazon products viewed by customers did not have a valid counterfeit complaint. Still, that tiny tenth of a percent that makes it through without getting caught is a problem. 

The new unit will have a cocked eye aimed at any bad actor who has tried to get past Amazon’s gatekeepers before. Those fraudsters may have gotten off with no more than a slap on the wrist when they first tried to get a counterfeit good listed, but Amazon says it’s going to more effectively pursue civil litigation against bad actors this time around.

Getting as close to the source as possible

Finding the counterfeiters won’t be easy. Since China came down on its infamous counterfeit industry, many of its fakers have taken to promoting their knock-offs on social messaging networks like WeChat, Instagram, and Tik Tok. Buyers then order and pay through private messaging apps.

Amazon realizes that it must go everywhere, not just underground, to catch these bad actors. Just last month, Amazon identified counterfeiters based in Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

To get to square one, the new unit is enhancing its engagement with authorities like the National Intellectual Property Rights Center (U.S.), Europol (EU), and relevant enforcement authorities in China and around the world. And while it doesn’t have jurisdiction in all those places, it says it will turn over each and every fake to relevant national authorities.

“Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President, Customer Trust and Partner Support, Amazon. 

“We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement – through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets – is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”

Amazon has been fighting counterfeit goods for years, but now it’s going after the fakers hard and heavy. On Wednesday, it announced that it has establ...

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Amazon warehouse workers claim the company isn’t being honest about COVID-19 cases

The company denies all claims and says it’s practicing what it’s preaching

Workers at Amazon’s Minneapolis-area warehouse in Shakopee MN -- the facility where 88 employees tested positive for coronavirus -- are up in arms about Amazon’s lack of response, saying that the company is essentially concealing the exact nature of what’s going on. 

When questioned about the scene at the warehouse, workers told Digital Trends that managers would lie about anyone being sick until the warehouse was dazed with dozens of cases.

Some of the workers said that, in their estimation, the real number of positive cases might be higher than the 88 cases reported by the Star Tribune. Others stated that they didn’t hear about the new cases from Amazon’s managers, but from the media instead.

“From the beginning of this, they’ve tried to downplay and hide the extent of it inside the warehouse,” said William Stoltz, a three-year veteran at the warehouse. “I can see that worker safety is not the overriding concern. Keeping packages shipping is the overriding concern.”

Amazon’s blurry messaging

Despite all that Amazon says it’s doing for its workers, both Stoltz and his co-worker, Tyler Hamilton, said that Amazon’s effort to keep employees informed has been muddy at best. 

In Stoltz and Hamilton’s opinion, the company’s text messages confirmed that there had been “cases” of COVID-19 in the warehouse and that the warehouse was being sanitized, but little else. 

The texts shared with Digital Trends were fuzzy, informing workers of “additional confirmed cases” of the disease as opposed to hard numbers.

“They were in absolute denial that anything was wrong,” Hamilton said. “I figured maybe we had 30 or 40 cases, but 88! That’s shockingly high.”

A matter of trust

When the pandemic was still in its infancy, warehouse worker Habiq Mohamed alleged that management was lying about whether there were COVID-19 cases at that specific location. “I asked them how many people were sick, and they said, ‘oh, we don’t know.’ Amazon is not taking our health and safety seriously,” he said.

“People have to keep working when they feel sick, and they don’t tell us how many people are sick. They send us these unclear messages; just tell us the rate! Can you please just tell us the truth? We are grown people.”

Hamilton stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Mohamed, saying that workers at the warehouse can no longer trust the company or its local management. 

“Honestly, it’s management’s fault. And a lot of it is corporate’s fault,” Hamilton fumed. “As long as I’ve been there, it seems like every couple of weeks or months, something happens where they shoot themselves in the foot.”

One of those self-inflicted wounds showed up in the break rooms of all places, Hamilton said. “They literally had TVs placed in the commons areas of the warehouses that had a recording from the General Manager playing on a loop that was saying ‘there are no cases of COVID here’ and ‘people are fear-mongering,’ and ‘why are they sowing fear at a time like this,’ and then as soon as they had the first case, they sent out a text, and they took all the TVs down.”

Workers say Amazon is in the dominant position here, leaving concerned workers little choice but to suck it up, run the risk of getting sick, or stay at home without pay.

“Each worker is put in a position where we’re having to make a risk calculation,” said Stoltz. “Are we willing to go into work if it means catching the virus? But going on leave means no money.”

Amazon denies workers’ claims

As you can imagine, Amazon says what Hamilton, Mohamed, and Stoltz are saying is false and that it’s practicing what it’s preaching.

“These claims are simply not true,” wrote Amazon spokesperson Timothy Carter in an email to Digital Trends. “We utilize a variety of data to closely monitor the safety of our buildings and there is strong evidence that our employees are not proliferating the virus at work -- what we see generally is that the overall rate of infection and increase or decrease of total cases is highly correlated to the overall community rate of infection.”

“Over the months of COVID-19, thousands of employees and partners have worked at our Shakopee site and we believe strongly people are not spreading the virus at work given the robust safety measures we’ve put into place,” Carter added.

Amazon enacts some protections

While Stoltz came down hard on Amazon, he did say that the Shakopee warehouse was actually doing some things right. The facility is using masks, temperature checks, and enacting social distancing -- all things Amazon has said it’s doing.

On top of the additional safety precautions that Amazon established, it’s also watching workers like a hawk to make sure those guidelines aren’t violated. Instead of the typical three-strikes-you’re-out way of keeping workers in line, Amazon has gone to a one-strike-you’re-out if someone defies the new six-foot social distancing rule.

Workers at Amazon’s Minneapolis-area warehouse in Shakopee MN -- the facility where 88 employees tested positive for coronavirus -- are up in arms about Am...

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Amazon announces new climate change investment

An initial $2 billion will go to companies developing technology to combat climate change

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it’s pledging $2 billion to invest in startups working on “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.” 

The Climate Pledge Fund will funnel $2 billion into companies developing technologies that will help Amazon reach its goal of becoming net carbon neutral by 2040. Amazon said the $2 billion is just a starting point; more could be added to the fund at a later date. 

“This dedicated investment program—with an initial $2 billion in funding—will invest in visionary companies whose products and solutions will facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy,” the company said in a statement. 

CEO Jeff Bezos added that companies of “all sizes and stages will be considered, from pre-product start-ups to well-established enterprises.” 

“Each prospective investment will be judged on its potential to accelerate the path to zero carbon and help protect the planet for future generations,” Bezos said. 

Investing in clean energy

Last fall, Amazon announced that it would be committing to dramatically reducing its impact on the environment. Under its “Climate Pledge,” the e-commerce giant vowed to go carbon neutral within the next two decades. In a sustainability report on Tuesday, the company said it now expects to operate exclusively on clean energy by 2025.

Amazon also pledged to meet the standards established under the Paris climate agreement by 2040, a full ten years ahead of the Paris accord’s timeline. The company has also agreed to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from EV startup Rivian. Bezos said he expects the vans to be on the road by 2024. 

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it launched a new “Bezos Earth Fund” which aimed to fight climate change. Bezos pledged $10 billion to start the fund, through which climate-focused scientists and activists would receive grants. 

“We can save Earth,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it’s pledging $2 billion to invest in startups working on “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.” The Climate Pl...

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Amazon enacts one-year ban on police use of its facial recognition technology

The company says tougher and more ethical rules need to be put in place

Amazon announced on Thursday that it’s banning police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for one year. The company said it’s halting the use of technology until officials establish tougher rules regarding its use. 

“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology,” Amazon said in a blog post

The e-commerce giant didn’t exactly say why it was suspending use of the technology, but it noted that Congress “appears ready” to create more stringent regulations pertaining to the use of facial recognition. 

Establishing rules

Amazon’s statement comes just two days after IBM announced that it would be exiting the general-purpose facial recognition game, mainly due to its potential to be used for racial profiling and mass surveillance. IBM said Thursday that facial recognition or analysis software could be used by police to violate "basic human rights and freedoms, which would violate its values. 

“We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested,” Amazon said in a blog post. 

In its brief announcement, Amazon didn’t specifically mention the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. However, the company’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the incident. Floyd’s death set off numerous protests against police brutality and racism and sparked a nationwide push for change. 

Amazon will still allow facial recognition to be used for commercial purposes and organizations like the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help find victims of human trafficking. 

Amazon announced on Thursday that it’s banning police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for one year. The company said it’s halting th...

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Amazon may soon face antitrust charges over its treatment of third-party sellers

An EU investigation has reportedly revealed that the company uses data from third-party sellers to compete against them

Following a lengthy investigation into Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, the European Commission (EC) plans to lodge formal antitrust charges against Amazon, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Journal said the charges will likely come sometime within the next two weeks. The watchdog group reportedly intends to accuse Amazon of using data from third-party sellers to compete against them.

EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last year that Amazon “appears to use competitively sensitive information – about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace.” 

"Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace," the EU said in July 2019, when it first launched the investigation. 

Scrutiny over business practices

During the course of the probe, Vestager said the EU would "take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules."

In April, more than 20 former Amazon employees told the Journal that Amazon had used seller data to help design and price its in-house products. Amazon maintained that it "strictly prohibt[s]" its employees from using that data and said it had launched an internal investigation into the matter. 

A decision on whether the company violated competition laws is "expected to take at least another year," according to the report. If Amazon is ultimately found to have violated competition laws, it could face a fine of 10 percent of its annual revenue, the report says. 

Following a lengthy investigation into Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, the European Commission (EC) plans to lodge formal antitrust charges agai...

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Amazon to hold invitation-only sale to boost the economy

The intention is for everyone to win -- sellers, consumers, and the economy

With Prime Day being pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has decided there’s another way to make some hay -- hold an invitation-only sale!

On Tuesday, the online retailer sent word to sellers that it’s hosting a “Fashion Summer Sale Event” -- with the working title of “Biggest Sale in the Sky” -- on Monday, June 22. However, Amazon is only offering participation in the event to sellers it chooses.

According to a document seen by CNBC, Amazon is leaving the length of the sale open-ended, but the expected length is seven to 10 days. 

Everybody wins

Amazon styled the event as a boost to the economy as the pandemic fades and a new normal emerges. “We are having the Biggest Summer Sale event to drive excitement and jump-start sales,” the notice states. “To drive customer engagement, we are asking for your participation.”

To make sure everyone -- the economy, the consumer, and the seller -- all win, the company is asking sellers to come up with deals that have discounts of at least 30 percent off by the end of the day Wednesday (June 3).

Things are still iffy at Amazon

With the pandemic continuing to play havoc with both warehouses and employees, Amazon is trying to find some new footing. Things are so unsettled at Amazon that it pushed its mammoth Prime Day back indefinitely. Company CFO Brian Olsavsky also told analysts recently that he couldn't predict when the platform's oft-flaunted one-day Prime shipping feature would resume. 

Since Amazon employees started kicking up dust about working conditions related to COVID-19, the company has tried to reverse that narrative. To that end, the company also announced on Tuesday that it is offering a new family care benefit to 650,000+ U.S. employees.

The new benefit will provide each employee a host of options ranging from 10 days of subsidized emergency backup child or adult care and a $25 per day co-pay for in-center childcare.

With Prime Day being pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has decided there’s another way to make some hay -- hold an invitation-only sale!...

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Amazon asks Congress to enact anti-price gouging legislation

The online giant feels it can’t fight this consumer rip-off alone no matter how hard it tries

When the pandemic started to hit its stride, Amazon found itself in a swamp of carpetbaggers who were holding consumers hostage on essentials like toilet paper and face masks. The company subsequently booted thousands of sellers from its platform. 

Nonetheless, there's still plenty who are trying to profit on pandemic-related necessities, albeit at a lower ransom. As an example, ConsumerAffairs found a five-pack of 2 oz. hand sanitizer on Amazon for $22.99 (plus $7.99 s/h) where at CVS, you can buy five of its store-branded products for $7.95.

Fast forward to Thursday, and it looks like Amazon has had its fill of price gougers. The online retail giant is asking Congress to pass a law to help stop the consumer stick-up once and for all.

No surprise

It's nothing new to see entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on a large event. However, profiting off a pandemic is not the same as hawking World Series t-shirts to the winning team's fans.

"This isn't a surprise. Whenever the demand for basic necessities increases, there are bad actors who try to exploit circumstances by marking up goods in a way that goes far beyond the laws of supply and demand," Amazon's Brian Huseman -- who oversees public policy for the Americas at Amazon and is a former consumer protection attorney at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission -- wrote in a blog post.

Huseman says the company has done everything in its power to stop the overcharging. It removed more than 500,000 rip-offs and turned over a volume of suspected sellers to federal prosecutors and state attorneys general. However, the company feels this is a battle that it can't fight by itself.

Officials say it’s difficult to go state-to-state to try to stop gougers on their home turf. That state-to-state element is particularly challenging to wrestle because some states define gouging as a price ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent above average sales prices, and some states have no price-gouging laws at all.

"Our collaborative efforts to hold price gougers accountable have clarified one thing: to keep pace with bad actors and protect consumers, we need a strong federal anti-price gouging law," Huseman said. “The disparate standards among states present a significant challenge for retailers working to assist law enforcement, protect consumers, and comply with the law.”

Amazon offers a solution

To help grease the skids for federal regulators, Amazon has crafted a blueprint that it thinks could do the trick. When the federal government declares a public health crisis or national emergency, the law kicks in immediately. 

Amazon suggests that pricing prohibitions be defined as "unconscionable or grossly excessive or unconscionably excessive." 

"Put simply, we want to avoid the $400 bottle of Purell for sale right after an emergency goes into effect, while not punishing unavoidable price increases that emergencies can cause, especially as supply chains are disrupted," Huseman said.

Protecting consumers is the important thing

The bottom line is that Amazon can't afford to tick off its customers. When a price-gouger fleeces a consumer, it's usually Amazon who catches grief, not the gouger. And while this move may be a few months too late, it could bode well for both the company and consumers.

"A federal price-gouging law would ensure that there are no gaps in protection for consumers. This would also help retailers like Amazon more effectively prevent bad actors and ensure fair prices," Huseman said. 

Huseman feels that having the U.S. government driving this enforcement can make everyone happy. "We believe any new legislative proposal should provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to go after scammers," he concluded. 

"This would complement the great work being done by state attorneys general nationwide and allow for more expeditious enforcement, while also sending a warning shot to price gougers and enabling honest sellers to operate without disruption."

When the pandemic started to hit its stride, Amazon found itself in a swamp of carpetbaggers who were holding consumers hostage on essentials like toilet p...

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Amazon shows signs of resuming normal service

The company told sellers that it will no longer restrict new product shipments by quantity

Amazon has made moves to suggest that it is easing COVID-19 shipping restrictions, such as delaying shipments of nonessential items. 

Over the weekend, the company began informing third-party sellers that it would no longer limit the number of units that sellers could send per order to its warehouses. Amazon previously placed a cap on nonessential inventory restocks as it dealt with the sudden surge in consumer demand for products on its marketplace.  

Now, sellers have been informed that they can send in an unrestricted quantity of inventory. 

“We removed quantity limits on products our suppliers can send to our fulfillment centers,” Kristen Kish, an Amazon spokeswoman told CNBC. “We continue to adhere to extensive health and safety measures to protect our associates as they pick, pack and ship products to customers, and are improving delivery speeds across our store.” 

Amazon has also brought back the “Featured deals” and “Frequently bought together” sections on its website, indicating that the company isn’t as crushed by demand as it was in the initial stages of the pandemic. 

The e-commerce giant hasn’t yet restored its one- and two-day delivery options, but next-day delivery is now starting to come back online for select cities in the U.S.

Hazard pay for workers

In addition to loosening some shipping restrictions, Amazon will be extending hazard pay to warehouse workers through the end of May. The company will stop offering the extra pay in June, according to a Recode report.  

Amazon has faced criticism over its treatment of front-line workers during the pandemic. Lawmakers and activist groups have argued that the company isn’t doing enough to protect warehouse workers who have continued to work during the health crisis and have been forced to work in facilities where other employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon is currently being investigated by The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its recent firing of at least four workers who spoke out about the company’s allegedly unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus crisis. 

In mid-March, the company increased warehouse and delivery employee pay by $2 per hour and instated double overtime pay. After extending the pay hike several times, the increases will now end on May 31.

“We continue to see incredible demand from customers right now and … our team’s response in coming back to work has been really great as well,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, told Recode. “We think it’s the right thing for employees and the right thing for customers to keep it on for a couple of weeks.”

Amazon has made moves to suggest that it is easing COVID-19 shipping restrictions, such as delaying shipments of nonessential items. Over the weekend,...

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Senators question Amazon over termination of COVID-19 whistleblowers

Democratic senators want to know why the company fired people who spoke publicly about concerns

Amazon has fired at least four employees who publicly expressed concern about the company’s COVID-19 health and safety measures, and now a group of senators want to know why.  

On Wednesday, senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker sent a letter to Amazon asking about its “policies for discipline and termination regarding workers who raise health and safety concerns.” 

The group of senators noted that more than 100 Amazon workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least three fulfillment center employees have died. In light of these numbers, the senators asserted that Amazon’s efforts to boost worker safety during the health crisis have been insufficient. 

Employees have the right to speak up 

The letter stated that employers have a duty to ensure that workplaces are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.” Additionally, employees should have the right to speak up about concerns “without fear of retaliation.”

“Given the clear public history of these four workers’ advocacy on behalf of health and safety conditions for workers in Amazon warehouses preceding their terminations, and Amazon’s vague public statements regarding violations of ‘internal policies,’ we are seeking additional information to understand exactly what those internal policies are,” the senators wrote.

Amazon has until May 20 to provide answers to nine questions raised by the group of senators. The company has maintained that it terminated the employees in question for repeatedly violating policies such as physical distancing, not for talking publicly about working conditions or safety. 

“We support every employees’ right to criticize or protest their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to explaining in more detail in our response to the Senators’ letter.”

Amazon has fired at least four employees who publicly expressed concern about the company’s COVID-19 health and safety measures, and now a group of senator...

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Amazon’s Bezos called to testify before Congress over competition concerns

Is it ‘standard operating procedure,’ or does Amazon have prying eyes where it shouldn’t?

Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. On Friday, that request moved up a notch when Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos received word that the House Judiciary Committee would like him to fly to Capitol Hill and testify before the group regarding competition concerns. 

The pieces of the puzzle started back on April 23, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had utilized confidential information from the company’s third-party sellers in order to develop competing products under the Amazon private label banner. The Journal’s investigation ran counter to the sworn testimony that Amazon's associate general counsel, Nate Sutton, gave to the committee last July. 

Adding validation to the claim, the Journal based its report on interviews with over 20 former or current Amazon employees and the company’s internal documents. The outlet’s claims are also supported by findings of the European Commission, which has opened an antitrust investigation into Amazon for similar conduct.

Claims of exploiting third-party sellers

It’s important to note that it’s not that Amazon copies other products; all told, the company has more than 450 private labels and exclusive brands. Rather, the allegations claim that the company has gone too far by allowing its Amazon employees’ conduct to violate formal policy against the use of non-public, individual seller data. The Committee opened its letter to Bezos by getting right to that point. 

“If these allegations are true, then Amazon exploited its role as the largest online marketplace in the U.S. to appropriate the sensitive commercial data of individual marketplace sellers and then used that data to compete directly with those sellers,” the Committee wrote.

The letter continued by urging Bezos to respond to claims that employees violated the company’s policy against the use of non-public, individual seller data; reports that Amazon employees described pulling competitors’ data as “‘standard operating procedure’ when making products such as electronics, suitcases, sporting goods or other lines;” and reports that employees said that management set highly aggressive targets for Amazon’s private label business.

First congressional hearing for Bezos

Going in front of Congress will be something new for Bezos. Of the Big Tech stalwarts -- Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon -- Bezos is the only CEO that’s never gone before a Congressional committee.

The committee left the date for Bezos to appear open-ended, but it did say that it expects Bezos, as Amazon’s chief executive, to testify voluntarily and help sort this matter out. If not, it reserves “the right to compulsory process if necessary.” 

“It is vital to the Committee, as part of its critical work investigating and understanding competition issues in the digital market, that Amazon respond to these and other critical questions concerning competition issues in digital markets.”

Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. On Frida...

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Senator asks for criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon

The lawmaker claims Amazon accesses third-party vendor data to launch competing products

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the request in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

Hawley’s action follows a report in The Wall Street Journal which claimed that Amazon had used sales data from its third party sellers to develop competing Amazon-branded products. 

The Journal said it interviewed more than 20 former employees of Amazon’s private-label business and reviewed documents showing the online retailer used proprietary data it got from its third-party vendors to develop competing products. Previously, the company told Congress that it does not do that.

Amazon’s response

In a statement, Amazon said that it looks at sales data to provide consumers with “the best possible experience” but insisted Amazon employees are barred from accessing non-public data to decide which private label products to develop and sell.

But the newspaper article cited an example of Amazon employees obtaining data about a popular car-trunk organizer offered on its site by a third-party vendor and analyzing the information to decide whether to launch a competing product.

In his letter to Barr, Hawley cited The Journal’s interviews with former Amazon employees and internal company documents obtained by the newspaper as strong evidence of antitrust violations.

“Amazon abuses its position as an online platform and collects detailed data about merchandise so Amazon can create copycat products under an Amazon brand,” Hawley wrote.

Amazon said it is conducting its own internal investigation of the issue, reiterating that company policy prohibits employees from accessing sales data from third-party vendors on the site in order to develop competing products.

Big Tech critic

Hawley, who was Missouri’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2018, has been a frequent critic of Amazon, as well as other large technology firms. A week ago, he fired off letters to Alphabet (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising concerns about their contact tracing projects during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” Hawley told the executives. “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy.”

Hawley said he is concerned that the tech firms will sell the data it collects during contact tracing to advertising firms to target products to consumers.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the requ...

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Amazon ramps up authentication procedure for third-party sellers with video calls

With 58 percent of its sales coming from third-parties, the company can’t risk having fraudsters rip off customers

On paper, anyone can be a Tom, Dick, or Harry, but on-screen, the chances are slimmer that someone can pull off an impersonation. At least that’s what Amazon is hoping for in a new test designed to authenticate third-party sellers and minimize its chances of getting bitten by a fraudster.

When the company started its campaign to validate candidates, its preference was meet potential applicants in person, but when COVID-19 looked like it wasn’t going anywhere for a while, the company turned to video calls.  

Third-party business is Amazon’s wellspring. A whopping 58 percent of its gross sales come from third-party sellers. In late 2019, the company made dramatic changes to its policies to try to curry these sellers’ favor by making things fairer. 

“As we practice social distancing, we are testing a process that allows us to validate prospective sellers’ identification via video conferencing,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement, “This pilot allows us to connect one-on-one with prospective sellers while making it even more difficult for fraudsters to hide.”

Hoping this change will do the trick

Amazon’s caught the ire of a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2019 for its substandard scrutiny of third-party sellers.

“In practice, Amazon has increasingly evolved like a flea market. It exercises limited oversight over items listed by millions of third-party sellers, many of them anonymous, many in China, some offering scant information,” the Journal wrote.

The result of Amazon’s lax attitude toward that seller group was a scourge of mislabeled or banned products, counterfeit goods, and even some items that had been declared “unsafe” by federal agencies.

Amazon’s new video authentication procedure is in beta in the U.S., U.K., China, and Japan. The natural, modern-day inclination would be to think that the process uses facial recognition. However, Amazon has decided to take a more personable route in trying to make the process as non-Big Brother-like as possible.

According to GeekWire’s confirmation of the process, Amazon will use its Chime video-conferencing technology -- similar to Zoom or Skype -- to make the calls to applicants. Once online, an Amazon representative double-checks the prospective seller’s ID to make sure it matches the person they’re talking to on-screen, as well as the documents the seller has provided in the application. Amazon says that, so far, more than 1,000 prospective sellers have gone through the screening process.

On paper, anyone can be a Tom, Dick, or Harry, but on-screen, the chances are slimmer that someone can pull off an impersonation. At least that’s what Amaz...

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Amazon same-day delivery can now take as little as 5 hours in some areas

The company’s investment in infrastructure is making consumer advantages like this happen

It’s not quite to the “as quick as you can say Jack Robinson” stage, but some Amazon customers will soon be able to get their deliveries in less than five hours.

The online shopping mecca is accelerating its same-day delivery for customers in Dallas, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Phoenix thanks to a $1.5 billion investment in its fulfillment centers in those areas.

How quick and what’s available

The time an order is delivered depends greatly on when it’s placed in these areas: 

  • Orders placed between Midnight and 8am, local time, will be delivered by 1pm; 

  • Orders placed between 8am and 1pm will be delivered by 6pm; 

  • Orders placed between 1pm and 5pm will arrive by 10pm; and 

  • Orders placed between 5pm and Midnight will arrive by 8am the next day.

Customers shouldn't expect anything and everything to make it to their doorstep at lightning speed, but Amazon says its list of available items is in the 3 million range and includes lots of I-need-it-quick items like diapers, dog food, and device chargers. Eligible items are products marked with “Prime FREE Same-Day Delivery”.

“Making so many daily deliveries across such a large selection of products isn’t an easy job,” Amazon’s Jon Alexander wrote in a blog post explaining the investment Amazon made in its warehouses to facilitate improvements like this. “We’re able to do so by storing need-it-today items in brand new facilities we built even closer to customers. These are first-of-their-kind buildings and serve as mini-fulfillment centers optimized for faster click-to-delivery speeds.”

“And while it may seem counterintuitive, the faster delivery speeds enabled by these facilities actually help us lower carbon emissions in line with our Climate Pledge to be net zero carbon by 2040 -- 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. This is because these new facilities are in close proximity to customers, reducing the need for aircraft transport and generally decreasing the distance drivers have to travel to deliver packages to our customers,” Alexander said.

It’ll cost you

You may have thought that this bump-up in service is a total freebie, but that’s not quite the case. Prime members who spend over $35 will get the service gratis, but for any total order under $35, the sped-up delivery will cost an extra $2.99. 

Amazon will no doubt be adding new markets for the faster delivery service. The best thing consumers can do to stay on top of when the service will become available for them is by entering their zip code on Amazon’s same-day delivery page.

It’s not quite to the “as quick as you can say Jack Robinson” stage, but some Amazon customers will soon be able to get their deliveries in less than five...

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Amazon opens the doors to its first Go supermarket

The cashless, checkout-free concept starts in Seattle with 5,000 items on the shelves

You: “Alexa, take me to that new Amazon Go supermarket.”

Alexa: “Pack your bags -- we’re off to Seattle!”

Never at a loss for trying something new, Amazon has just launched its first Amazon Go Grocery, with Seattle getting the nod as the idea’s geo launchpad.

Nearly 5,000 items will be on shelves laid out over a 10,400-square-foot space (about half the size of the smallest Wal-Mart). The initiative is essentially a heftier version of its app-driven, checkout-free Amazon Go convenience store, with a wider range of products like wine and organic vegetables. 

The other major difference is that the updated idea will be closer to residential areas, most likely as a test to see how it fares versus traditional grocers like Publix, Kroger, and Safeway.

Thinking ahead

As is the case with anything digital, cashless, or app-driven, there’s always the possibility of bumps in the road, but Amazon has done its best to predict those. 

One example would be how a shopper tends to pick up produce like avocados or tomatoes and compare size and freshness. To get over that hurdle, Amazon is keeping track of moments when consumers physically pick up items by using in-store cameras. When the item is put back, the store’s systems register what the product is so it can be checked later on. 

“Most of the things at Amazon Go are packaged, or they’re single items like a can of Coke,” Dilip Kumar, vice president of Amazon’s Physical Retail and Technology department, told GeekWire. “But here, people are shopping for potatoes or they’re shopping for onions — there’s a lot more browsing and rummaging that tends to happen. That’s what makes this problem a lot more complicated.”

Anything missing?

Amazon has thought everything out pretty well. Staying competitive with typical grocery chains, it has prepared “Meals Made Easy” selections, cat litter, toiletries, baked goods, and even alcohol like wine and beer. 

However, if you’re a meat lover and like to talk to the butcher, the supersized version of Amazon Go might not be for you. Yes, there is beef, seafood, and poultry, but all of that is pre-cut and pre-wrapped. 

Go big or go home

Amazon appears ready to expand this concept if all goes well. In comments to The Wall Street Journal, Kumar said that there is “no real upper bound” to the store concept. “It could be five times as big, it could be 10 times as big." 

One question that came up as ConsumerAffairs was doing the legwork on this story was what happens to Whole Foods. While some marketing brains might think Amazon is cannibalizing itself by having two grocery brands, the company feels it can satisfy two distinct and different groups of grocery shoppers without hurting either one. 

One of those differentiators is home delivery, an add-on that Whole Foods keeps expanding on and one that Go will likely avoid.

You: “Alexa, take me to that new Amazon Go supermarket.”Alexa: “Pack your bags -- we’re off to Seattle!”Never at a los