Amazon India has reportedly copied products and manipulated search results

Photographer: Thorsten Wagner / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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According to a Reuters report on Wednesday citing internal documents, Amazon’s India division ran a systematic campaign that copied items sold by third parties and then manipulated search results to favor their own products.

In a 2016 document titled “India Private Brands Program,” Amazon’s private label team in India described how it would review sales and customer review data to identify “reference brands” to replicate, according to the article.

In one case, Amazon employees saw an increase in returns of a shirt from one of its private labels due to size issues, Reuters said. The team reportedly found a best-selling brand and redesigned the fit of their shirt to match his measurements.

Amazon teams in India also worked to improve the company’s own-label products in search results using a technique called “search seeding” and “sparkles,” according to Reuters. With “Search Seeding,” Amazon was able to ensure that new products were the second or third result of search queries, while “Sparkles” are banners that are located above search results, Reuters reported.

Senior Amazon executives, including Diego Piacentini, who previously ran the company’s international operations, and Russell Grandinetti, senior VP of International Consumers, were aware of business practices in India, Reuters said. Piacentini reported to CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos, and Grandinetti is part of an influential team of key executives overseen by CEO Andy Jassy.

Reuters’ results directly contradict Amazon’s earlier messages on the development of its private label products. Under the branding AmazonBasics, Amazon has been bringing its own retail brands onto the market for many years, offering everything from furniture to clothing. It also offers private label products under other brand names.

Companies that sell their goods on Amazon have previously wondered how the retail giant is developing its own products, with some claiming Amazon struck off their goods outright.

Amazon executives, including Bezos, have held that it is against company policy to use third-party data to develop future products. Bezos told a congressional committee in July 2020 that Amazon has a policy that protects seller data from employee access.

“If we should find that someone violates it, we would take action,” said Bezos at the time.

Amazon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the full Reuters report here.

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