Senator Josh Hawley urged the Justice Department on Tuesday to open a criminal probe of Amazon.com, saying the online retailer was building a monopoly using “predatory data practices” on vendors using its platform.

Hawley, a Republican who has been critical of big tech platforms like Alphabet’s Google, expressed concern about a report in the Wall Street Journal that Amazon collects data about products sold by third parties on its site in order to create Amazon branded copies, saying it went far beyond what brick and mortar stores are able to do.

“I write to ask you to open a criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon. Recent reports suggest that Amazon has engaged in predatory and exclusionary data practices to build and maintain a monopoly,” Hawley wrote in a letter to Attorney General William Barr that was dated Tuesday.

The big four tech platforms — Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook — are under investigation by the House Judiciary Committee and Justice Department while the Federal Trade Commission is probing Facebook and Amazon. Meanwhile, groups of state attorneys general are looking at Facebook and Google.

Hawley noted that the practice was “especially concerning” given that many small retailers have been forced to temporarily shutter their stores and have become more reliant on online sales because of public health measures ordered to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Amazon said in a statement that it “strictly prohibit(s) employees from using non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch.”

“While we don’t believe these claims made by the Wall Street Journal are accurate, we take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email statement.

A Justice Department spokesman said that it had received the letter and was reviewing it.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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