Amazon copied products, rigged search results to promote its brands

The documents revealed that the company's private-brands team in India copied products of other brands and offered them on Amazon. The company has denied such accusations.

Amazon products
Amazon and Future have been at loggerheads since last year, with the US company using the terms of its toehold investment to block debt-laden Future’s attempt to sell retail assets to Reliance | Image for Representational Purposes Only

Ecommerce retail giant Amazon has been creating knock-off products repeatedly and selling them on its platform, a revelation by news agency Reuters has disclosed.

The company, which denied all allegations, is said to have exploited “its vast trove of internal data to promote its own merchandise at the expense of other sellers”.

A trove of internal documents examined by Reuters – including emails, strategy papers and business plans – have revealed that the company operated in a systematic manner, creating knockoff goods and manipulating search results to boost its own products.

According to the data, Amazon’s private-brands team exploited internal data from Amazon.in to duplicate posts sold by other companies and then offer them on its platform. The employees also rigged the company’s search results so that their products would appear in the first two or three search results.

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Kishore Biyani-associated popular shirt brand in India, John Miller, was also a victim to Amazon’s strategy. According to the documents, Amazon listed the measurements of John Miller shirts down to the neck circumference and sleeve length.

“The Solimo project in India has had international impact: Scores of Solimo-branded health and household products are now offered for sale on Amazon’s U.S. website, Amazon.com,” Reuters said.

The employees of Amazon also studied the proprietary data of other brands and also customer returns to identify ‘benchmark’ products and ‘replicate’ them. Based on the 2016 internal report, the ‘Solimo’ strategy read, “use information from Amazon.in to develop products and then leverage the Amazon.in platform to market these products to our customers.”

Also read: Amazon widens non-etail play in India as local giants develop super apps

A document titled “India Private Brands Program” said “to ensure that we are able to fully match quality with our reference product, we decided to only partner with the manufacturers of our reference product”. Such manufacturer expertise is called ‘Tribal Knowledge.’

In 2020, Jeff Bezos reasoned that the company prohibited its employees from using the data on individual sellers to support its private-label business.

Also, in 2019, another official testified that the company does not use any such data for its own private-label products or alter search results.

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