Amazon notifies shopper about U.S. probe of third-party sellers

(This March 19 story corrects to say Amazon notified one shopper and not shoppers, adds Amazon statement)

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Inc notified one customer on Thursday about a Department of Justice criminal investigation of third-party sellers on its e-commerce marketplace, according to an email seen by Reuters.

The email was sent by Joell Parks, a senior law enforcement response specialist at Amazon to a Reuters editor, who is also an Amazon customer.

“We wanted to notify you directly about this matter in the event that you are contacted by the Department of Justice in connection with its investigation,” Parks said in his email.

Amazon said it does not comment on specific law enforcement requests. It said the notice was unrelated to coronavirus or price gouging and was a routine notice related to a request that preceded the outbreak.

It was also not clear if the probe would deal with more than two dozen people who were charged in a federal court in Dallas for being part of a crime ring in which thieves shoplifted goods from stores across the United States and sold them on Amazon.

The company has come under pressure from lawmakers to nab sellers engaged in price-gouging amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday, four lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and David Cicilline, antitrust subcommittee chairman, sent a letter to the Justice Department asking the agency to investigate the matter.

Earlier this month, the company said it is working with state attorneys general to identify and prosecute such third-party sellers and has restricted the type of merchants who can sell health and sanitation items on its website.

Despite these steps, consumer advocacy groups said they have spotted listings of essential items with unusual price spikes on the website.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington and Anna Driver in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis