ProPublica investigates Amazon's private brand site placement

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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The scrutiny on Amazon's private brand strategy is not going away. Investigative journalism site ProPublica published a piece over the weekend examining the retailer's "new competitive advantage” of putting its own brands first, in particular how it positions its own brands in prime spots on its pages, even ahead of slots reserved for sponsored placements. 

The ProPublica piece follows a spate of news coverage and congressional questions about its use of third-party brand data to inform the development of its own brand product. The practice was first highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, whose piece was followed by the House Judiciary Committee sending Amazon a request to interview CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon fired back with a letter to the committee saying they’re cooperating and that they’re not doing anything out of bounds with its use of third-party seller data or its private label programs.

Though the ProPublica piece does not mention the third-party data use, it does suggest that Amazon’s advantageous placements for its private brands could violate a U.S. law that looks at “exclusionary conduct,” a key element of antitrust cases.

The article included a response from Amazon, which said it highlights its private labels because they’re most preferred by customers. “Amazon’s private brand products have on average higher customer review ratings, lower return rates and higher repeat purchase rates than other comparable brands in the Amazon store,” the spokesperson said in the article. “As a result, like other retailers, Amazon highlights its private brands in promotions and marketing.”

The full article from ProPublica can be read here.