There are increasing reports that Amazon’s dogged determination to be the uber-dominate online – hell everything – channel is biting the hands that feed it. Merchants, staff, delivery, governments and buyers are revolting – Amazon agrees.

Amazon is in a world of strife, mainly due to its win-at-all-costs attitude and its belief that everyone should get with the strength or get out. Or is it just tall-poppy syndrome?

Our US correspondent has put together a selection of “Oh shit” moments Amazon is facing this quarter.

FTC investigates Amazon and Apple for ‘brand gating’

In late 2018 Apple opened an online shop on Amazon to sell new iPhones, iPads, Watch and more. It has worked very well for Apple, but the deal has led to other Apple sellers kicked off Amazon.

Apple Amazon

Apparently, the deal, proposed by Amazon, restricts Apple sales on the platform to ‘authorised resellers only’ in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and India.

The problem is that the deal stops ‘unauthorised’ sellers from reselling parallel imports, refurbished or second-hand Apple products – artificially creating a monopoly or ‘brand-gating’.

It appears that Amazon and Apple have entered into a price-fixing agreement which is illegal under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The FTC and US citizens get pretty upset about that.

But the issue runs deeper, and Apple may not be entirely to blame for anti-competitive behaviour.

It seems that the giant selling platform is pissing off its merchants in oh so many ways.

Amazon has rolled out policies to make sure brand owners can identify themselves then stamp out counterfeiters and unauthorised sellers (like the Apple deal). It’s also tweaked its algorithm to favour branded content, advertising spend and external traffic, alongside price and delivery speed. So, it favours brands with money over brands that work hard to provide good products and support. DigiDay has an interesting article here.

Bloomberg reports that Amazon is penalising its sellers if it finds that their products offered for a lower price on rival websites. It is so determined to be dominant in the online space, that if its merchants can’t offer the lowest price then the ‘Buy Now’ button disappears until the price is matched. But the catch 22 is that Amazon takes a much large percentage of the sale price compared to other sites, so it is forcing smaller resellers to the wall.

It is also fining merchants (from 3 September) US$1.99 for any packaging that does not comply with its packaging requirements. It says it is all about sustainability, but analysts say that it is all about FedEx ending its delivery contract with Amazon.

Not surprisingly a cadre of third-party sellers, some of which generate millions in sales every year, is gearing up to complain to the US government about why Amazon is competing against them – and destroying their businesses.

The public perception is that Amazon Choice Badges are products offering value.

These give higher and more obvious placement in search results. But a leaded document to Digiday shows that the ‘badge’ can be bought for lower prices and buying Amazon ads. A pay-to-play system – see the Government section later.

Amazon choice

Workers are not all happy either

Amazon is the master of casual employment contracts that, by and large, allow it 100% flexibility with its workforce. A worker may have a solid roster for months and then nothing if they don’t meet its undisclosed performance criteria. No notice, no termination pay – no nothing.

Or you may be a delivery owner-driver only to find Amazon buying delivery vehicles and renting them Uber-style to other smucks and your business is gone. It always looks to horizontal integration doing things itself if it can make a buck.

Amazon also uses workplace ‘ambassadors’ a.k.a. paid company stooges to spy on staff and pour oil on negative working conditions.

A Yahoo Finance reporter Krystal Hu said that Amazon employs 14 ambassadors to patrol social media full-time.  Tweets from these alleged workers began spouting anti-union talking points (“unions are thieves” that make it difficult for employers to discipline, terminate or promote) when the Unions decided to target work conditions there.

ABC News has a great and shocking expose on Australian working conditions here. “I feel like they resent the fact that I’m not a robot and that I’m made of flesh and bone.”