A federal grand jury in Washington state has indicted six people on charges of bribing Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -1.78% employees to gain advantages for third-party sellers on the e-retailer’s online storefront, where its business practices have drawn increased regulatory scrutiny.
Since at least 2017, the defendants were part of groups that acted as consultants to vendors on Amazon’s marketplace, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Washington alleged. In that role, the defendants paid more than $100,000 in bribes to Amazon employees to give some third-party sellers a leg up over competitors, according to the charges.
The indictment gives a window into some of the behind-the-scenes tactics that have been used to manipulate Amazon’s marketplace for third-party sellers and undermine trust in the accuracy and quality of its listings. Amazon has struggled to contain the sale of faulty products on its site, including listings for thousands of products that had been deemed unsafe by federal agencies, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.
The six people charged—including two former Amazon workers—allegedly bribed Amazon employees to reinstate sales of products that were deemed substandard or dangerous, such as suspect dietary supplements and inflammable household electronics.