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Amazon investigates allegations of bribery by crooked sellers

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E-commerce giant Amazon has opened an investigation following claims that some employees have accepted bribes in exchange for sales information, deleting negative reviews and other favours.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, independent brokers would use messaging service WeChat to connect merchants with Amazon employees. In exchange for bribes ranging from $80 (£61) to more than $2000 (£1520), the employees were alleged to have helped the sellers acquire confidential sales data and customers’ contact details, delete negative product reviews, and restore banned accounts.

The behaviour is allegedly rife among China-based employees (who are paid modest wages) and Chinese merchants seeking competitive advantage over other sellers and Amazon’s own products, likely hoping to push their products to the top of Amazon’s search results.

The report was based on discussions with the independent brokers who enabled these deals, as well as sellers and people familiar with Amazon’s investigation.

Now, Amazon has announced that it is carrying out a full internal investigation, which began in May when tipped off about the practice. The company said that the behaviour was forbidden by Amazon policy, and that it would take action against sellers and employees found to have engaged in wrongdoing.

“We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties,” Amazon said.

“In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behaviour, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds and taking legal action.”

The investigation began in May after Eric Broussard, Amazon’s VP for International Marketplaces and Retail, was tipped off about the behaviour in Shenzhen, China. The company will also be investigating incidents in the US, where some Amazon employees are under suspicion of accepting bribes.

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