Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos agrees to testify before antitrust hearing

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Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media in September in Washington, DC.

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has agreed to testify before a US House of Representatives committee reviewing antitrust issues in the tech industry. He had resisted calls to testify, which caused the committee to threaten to subpoena Bezos if necessary.

Bezos’ decision was written in a letter to the committee dated Sunday.

“We are committed to cooperating with your inquiry and will make the appropriate executive available to testify. This includes making Jeff Bezos available to testify at a hearing with the other CEOs this summer,” wrote attorney Robert K. Kelner, of Covington & Burling, which is representing Amazon for the antitrust investigation.

Kelner added that the timing and format for the testimony would still need to be worked out. He said Amazon has produced over 225,000 pages of documents requested as part of the investigation.

Bezos’ decision to testify was earlier reported Monday by The New York Times, citing the same letter, and Politico, citing a company spokesperson.

Amazon and a handful of other major tech companies are facing increased pressure from a series of investigations from the US House and Senate, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission into their potential monopolistic practices. For Amazon, the investigations have often focused on the company’s use of private label items to compete against much smaller retailers on its platform.

Calls for Bezos to testify before the US House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law intensified after The Wall Street Journal in April reported that Amazon workers had repeatedly accessed the sales data of individual sellers on the e-commerce giant’s site when deciding what Amazon-branded products should be launched. Amazon said it has policies against accessing individual seller data and added that it was investigating the assertions mentioned in the Journal story.

In May, Rep. David Cicilline, who is chairman of the committee, said Bezos “expressed reservations” about appearing before the committee, even after the CEOs of Google parent Alphabet, Apple and Facebook agreed to show. Cicilline threatened to subpoena Bezos, the world’s richest person, if needed. Amazon about a week later said it would send one of its executives before the committee, but didn’t say whether Bezos would attend.

The Journal last week reported that the European Union was preparing formal antitrust charges against Amazon, claiming the company was mistreating independent sellers on its sites. That move shows that after about a year, some of these investigations appear to be moving to the next steps.