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Amazon restricts how rival device makers buy ads on its site (wsj.com)
229 points by known 23 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 228 comments



Worth mentioning that Amazon does not allow brands to restrict keywords. I.e. Birkenstock knockoffs can buy keywords on the term "Birkenstocks" even though Birkenstocks are not on Amazon officially.

This strategy is used to essentially force companies to bid against their competitors on their own branding. By Amazon restricting "Alexa" and similar, it is protecting itself against such abuse but it implicitly forces its sellers into this race

disclosure: I am a former amazon employee who did not work on marketplace at all


This is the same strategy used for many years in "domain name business". Trademark holders need to purchase domain registrations as defensive measure. To get the best possible protection under trademark law, there's an implicit obligation to actively pursue enforcement of your trademark. Trademark holders generally cannot "ignore" domain names. They are forced into the race.


Not to take away from your point, as it's a very good one. But "Birkenstocks" from Germany are on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Birkenstock-Unisex-Arizona-Sandal-Bir...

For example


It's not sold by official Birkenstock, so it's either grey market or knockoffs from what I know. Birkenstock had withdrawn their official seller presence from Amazon a few years ago due to commingled counterfeit products and Amazon's unwillingness to fix it.


Well, to add to his point, the reviews say these are cheap knockoffs and, if you search for just birkenstock, the first item is a competitor, LAVAU ...


Oh... I double checked and through it said they were legit and came from Germany.

I stand corrected lol

How is that even allowed? 18,000 reviews? They honestly look completely legit.


Yeah, it's all down the rabbit hole. If your handle is an indicator, checkout amazon.ca, it is worse.


> How is that even allowed?

That's a question best directed at Jeff Bezos and consumer protection regulators.


The few bad reviews might be due to commingled counterfeit inventory


Try and use the word "counterfeit" in an Amazon review: it will be automatically rejected.

That indicates a totally unacceptable level of complicity on Amazon's part, and I hope they face criminal sanctions for it. But I'm not holding my breath.


Which is yet another thing that they need to be taken to task for. No other mass retailer has such loosely managed supply chains.


Interesting. I remember Birkenstock’s very publicaly left amazon a few years ago over this problem. Perhaps that was only in the US or perhaps they reached an agreement of some kind with amazon


This is why Warren’s plan included a provision that doesn’t allow a company that runs a marketplace to also participate in said marketplace.

Edit: Since a lot of people aren’t familiar with the details, the plan only kicks in once the company reaches 25 billion in revenue.


It’s funny because some places actually go the other way —- they start off only selling their own stuff and then they invite others into the marketplace. This is one way to overcome the marketplace chicken egg problem of having both buyers and sellers. This would stifle that.

Valve launched Steam originally only with its own games then invited others to join. Now it’s a completely open marketplace.


I mean, Valve's games (as few and far between they are these days) did and still do get preferential treatment. It just so happens that because Valve doesn't really make games anymore, Steam works out being mostly fair. But if Valve went and released HL3 tomorrow, you can bet it'll be at the top of the store for half the year.


Artifact is a Valve game [1], and on it's release it was advertised no more then any other game in the strategy category. It has a banner at the top for a new release as they do for any other game. And that was about it.

[1] - https://store.steampowered.com/app/583950/Artifact/

Not to say HL3 wouldn't get more attention, I don't believe Valve treats their marketplace similar to Amazon.


To be fair, Artifact's announcement even before it ever got to Steam was met with a literal chorus of "BOO"s [1]. It wouldn't be [2] the best measure to prove Valve wouldn't favor its own game.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0qZTS38cjw [2]: 6.4k likes vs 81k dislikes at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA5mY8XqrHU


I think the dislikes came after the initial launch. I remember everyone being super hyped about Artifact, but then the game came out, and they didn't really like it. (I also bought it, played a few games, bought a few decks, and decided Hearthstone was better.)

The game lost all of its players (something like 30 active daily users at one point), and Valve said they were rewriting it. They called it "the long haul", and that is where most of the dislikes came from. People paid for the game, paid for cards, and then were told they couldn't play anymore. The community was furious.

Sometime recently they did release a beta of the new version. I have a beta key but wasn't all that interested in trying it. I imagine most people feel the same way.

Honestly, I think the game was so bad that pushing it on everyone on Steam wouldn't have improved their numbers. It came at a very bad time -- card games were on the way out, auto battlers were on the way in. They gave up on Artifact and focused on Dota Underlords, and probably made the right decision. (I have not followed the auto battlers at all, so I don't know if people like Underlords or not. Maybe it's another Artifact, I'm not the right person to ask.)


Would it? Alyx didn't really overstate its presence earlier this year either.


Alyx is also a VR game. Bit more niche.


Steam has a very powerful recommendation engine, and knowledge about the hardware of its users. I would be surprised if they weren't able to focus their marketing to VR owners if they wanted.


In the past year, I've used my steam account for VR games 50% of the time roughly and they still didn't really push Alyx all that much.

That said given I mostly only do short game sessions , maybe they figured that I wouldn't be that interested in it?


How short? The chapters in Alyx average a bit over an hour each but nothing stops you from only doing half a chapter.


oh I didn't know that, I somehow thought the chapters would be much longer.

I've mostly played VR games in 30 minutes sessions about. I get dizzy beyond that and it's the time I've got available anyhow :)


I'm not sure the comparison is apt. There is a lot less competition in the space that Steam occupies. If I buy Half Life, I'm more likely to buy another similar FPS, not less likely.


The tricky thing is that it would probably be at the top of the store even if Valve didn’t put it there; a lot of gamers would be thrilled to see HL3 released. Teasing out the difference between fair and unfair market behavior here is non-trivial.


It would stifle the specific marketplaces where, when they "open up" to third parties, wish to retain arbitrary special privileges for first party offerings.

There's a reasonableness metric there that needs to be evaluated. Nothing is simple. If you're giving in-house apps special privileges because you've implemented some core functionality using mostly generic APIs and just a few special hooks.. that's one thing.

If you're giving in-house apps special access to random "nice to have" things, or participation in various contexts (e.g. sales, promotions, etc.).. in order to boost your stuff against others, that's another thing.

The details matter.


Amazon was pretty similar. Selling other people’s stuff makes financial sense because you don’t carry inventory. It makes an accounting cost center a profit center.


They should spin off at that point. The original inventors can holds stock and earn return, but the platform would have to operate at arm's length from the original product.


But the same is true for amazon.


This plan seems like it would have a LOT of collateral damage that we don't want to have.

  I still want Valve to still be able to sell games on Steam.
  I want Epic to be allowed to make games.
  I want Costco to still have the Kirkland brand.
And so on.


Spin off the house brand from the house.


What if half the people work on both?


[flagged]


> typical socialist ideas, sounds good to the masses, but with potential consequences that are the opposite of what they want.

This has nothing at all to do with socialism. In fact, those that support such an argument seem to do so because they believe it _increases_ competition. It might actually be the polar opposite of socialism.


Well, it isn't a socialist plan. That would be more like obligating the employees to all be stockholders proportional to the number of employees in the company; but, nice try :)


How does this work for B&M companies? Think Walgreens or Target. They have plenty of in-house brands and also major 3rd party brands. Are they allowed to continue having in-house brands?


Those aren’t marketplaces. They have to buy the products they sell.


They actually don’t buy all the products they sell.

They often only pay the manufacturers after its sold. And sometimes don’t return the units which don’t sell


> They actually don’t buy all the products they sell.

This is not true at all. Costco buys everything they sell.

> They often only pay the manufacturers after its sold.

This is true, and may be where your confusion lies. They buy on net 30/60/90 terms from their vendors. This means they have 30/60/90 days to pay them. Because they move inventory so quickly, they have often sold an item before they have to pay for it.

But they are still buying it and still taking the risk that it won't sell.

> And sometimes don’t return the units which don’t sell

This is only true because as I said before, they own the items.


> But they are still buying it and still taking the risk that it won't sell.

I don't know about Costco, but the big box stores don't carry any risk. If the product doesn't sell then they return it and deduct that off your next invoice. The same happens for a customer return.

Depending on the retailer/product category you might get charged slotting fees, pay-to-stay, plus a share of promotional costs[1]. There are also other fees for use of distribution centers, discounts for paying early (even if it's not early), fees (or extended terms) for slow-moving products, and so on.

"Owning the items" feel less correct than "borrowing items with a promise to pay".

[1] https://traxretail.com/blog/quick-guide-shelf-space-costs/


> I don't know about Costco, but the big box stores don't carry any risk. If the product doesn't sell then they return it and deduct that off your next invoice.

That clearly does not apply in many instances, otherwise we wouldn't have clearance sections. There are all kinds of scenarios where it's either not possible, not feasible, or just not economically viable to return products to the manufacturer.


I'm not sure what's your point here is; but the idea is that with big B&M stores, it's still the manufacturer that is ultimately liable for the product; so, if the product doesn't sell, it's probably up to the manufacturer whether they want it back or may be interested in putting it into clearance and/or straight to the rubbish or recycling bins.


You seem to be speaking only from the perspective of Costco, which may be true. But there are many other retailers like Walgreens who, even if they happen to be buying their stock, force suppliers to buy it back if it doesn't sell, which leads to an equivalent outcome. This process has nothing to do with payment terms (net 30 etc).

I'm not making this up. There is an entire cottage industry of "product rotators" who work on behalf of suppliers to go into stores and "rotate" the product that's closest to expiration to the front of the shelf, because the supplier has to pay the retailer for any product that expires before its sold.


Ohhh. I've always wondered who are these low-English-speaking people with clipboards and scammers who seem to be stock clerking at the store, but when I ask a question they say "I don't work here".


Yes, they work for the manufacturers, or more likely, an agency of the manufacturers. Most of the retailers even require suppliers to put up their own advertising in the stores - the signage you see sticking out of shelves and on the floor and hanging from the ceiling (which, of course the retailers require minimum spends on - as a way to squeeze margins further in their favor)


The parent's referring to consignment inventory[1], not payment terms.

The model isn't common for general consumer goods retail, but it's a fairly common practice once you get into more specialty and high-priced inventory.

[1] https://www.warehouseanywhere.com/resources/consignment-inve...


Perhaps, but Walmart (and many other retailers) do not pre-buy all the products that they sell.


do you have a source for that? because my understanding (from my time working in that industry) is that everything is sold in exactly the fashion that the parent describes - wal-mart purchases from suppliers and sells to customers. they purchase a lot on credit, but no supplier is giving wal-mart terms like "just hold this in inventory for as long as you want and pay us whenever it sells"


I've watched plenty of Shark Tank episodes to learn/know that yes many retailers don't buy from you. They let you sell in their space, and after they get a hefty cut, they give you your share. And if it doesn't sell, you get it all back. To enhance the blackmail, they ask up front money's for a "better position in the shelves".


It depends on the category and retailer.

My source (which I understand may not be satisfactory) comes from working at two of the biggest US retailers for a total of almost 9 years.


They have house branded products that they “manufacture”.


yes, but the point is that a store and a marketplace are different things. if you run a store that stocks some things that you make, and some things made by other people, like most retail operates, then these rules wouldn't apply to you. if you want to buy products from suppliers and put them on the shelf beside your own-brand products and sell them both, that's fine.

we're only talking about a situation where the entity running the marketplace is not the seller - they're merely the facilitator between buyers and sellers. If you want to run a business where you rent a space on the shelf to some other seller, and your business is bigger than $25bn, these rules would prohibit you from also placing your own products on the shelves beside the shelves you've rented out.


I don't think brick-and-mortar stores are operating a marketplace the way Amazon is, though.


How are they different?


Brick and mortar retailers sell third party products but they don't allow third party sellers (in their brick and mortar stores).

To test this, go to Target and ask if you can put some items on the shelf for them to sell for you. If that's an option, it's a marketplace.

Everything sold by Target is sold by Target.

Amazon is the online version of a flea market in the parking lot of a big box store.

I don't know if that is the distinction lawmakers are making, but to me that is the difference.


What’s the practical difference? Depending on the terms, if an item doesn’t sell, they can send it back to manufacturer/wholesaler. This is/was especially prevalent with media like magazines, CDs, games, books etc.


That's different, and the actual transaction doesn't occur as you describe.

The stores had already paid for the magazines, books, etc. When they returned the physical media to the manufacturer, it was because the manufacturer accepts and destroys them or attempts to resale them to discount retailers. The manufacturer usually rebates the stores for the returns because they want the stores to keep buying from them, but this usually comes in the form of rebates/discounts on new inventory purchases, not as refunds on the returned products.


> What’s the practical difference?

One is the liability is much clearer. At least in some jurisdictions, if the manufacturer can't be located to take responsibility for a defective product, the retailer can be sued instead. IIRC, Amazon weaseled out of some hoverboard product safety lawsuits by claiming it wasn't the actual retailer.

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/amazon-beats-state...


And how does splitting the marketplace up alleviate that problem? That does just the opposite. Now Amazon corporate can shield itself even more.


> And how does splitting the marketplace up alleviate that problem? That does just the opposite. Now Amazon corporate can shield itself even more.

In this case, my hope would be that Amazon would shut down the 3rd party marketplace in favor of it's own retail business. Alternatively, it could explicitly wall them off from each other so there's a much clearer distinction and the marketplace could be more easily avoided unless explicitly desired.


Your solution to anti-competitive behavior is to complete eliminate the competition?


> Your solution to anti-competitive behavior is to complete eliminate the competition?

You'll note that I wasn't focusing on anti-competitive behavior at all. I personally don't like sites that commingle 1st party retail with a 3rd party marketplace, because I think they're a bad user experience.


Do you really think that’s the outcome any of the people who participate on the marketplace want - not to be integrated with Amazon.com?


> Do you really think that’s the outcome any of the people who participate on the marketplace want - not to be integrated with Amazon.com?

I'm sure the integration is desired by many sellers [1], but my sympathies lie with shoppers, and Amazon Marketplace has made my buying experience worse.

[1] To give a slanted example: if I'm a seller trying to unload counterfeit or substandard goods, I want a trusted brand like Amazon's to hide behind. Even better if burred distinctions let me piggyback on any goodwill Amazon's first-party sales have created in shoppers.


So you are not concerned with protecting the “little guy”? Doesn’t that give Amazon more power in the marketplace?


> So you are not concerned with protecting the “little guy”? Doesn’t that give Amazon more power in the marketplace?

What do you mean? Sellers can always sell on other marketplaces, like eBay, where it's clearer to the buyers what they're getting into.

If Amazon has too much power in the (retail) marketplace, the solution is to break it up, not give other sellers precarious access to its storefront via "Amazon Marketplace."


So if sellers have other choices, that kind of argues against that they need to be broken up because they are a monopoly...


Conflict of interest.


Thought experiment. If Amazon had to divest the marketplace and not integrate third party sellers with their website and decided to sell the most popular/profitable products in house, would that help the third party sellers?

Who would buyers go to? Amazon.com or the hypothetically amazonmarketplace.com?


The more likely outcome would be a amazon.com remains the marketplace, and they spin out Amazon Basics as a separate company that would then sell on Amazon.com alongside all the other 3rd parties. Amazon.com would no longer have an incentive to feature Amazon Basics as it would be just another seller. At the same time, you might see Amazon Basics in Walmart or Costco.


And where would the products that Amazon sells as a traditional retailer go? And Alexa and Fire products?

Until Amazon Basic gives Amazon virtual “slotting fees” to have the best placements...


They own the inventory and therefore take the risk of selling it. Amazon doesn't own the inventory of its marketplace sellers, and they can do anything they want to put them out of business at no financial risk to themselves.


Walmart very well could drop both Zip Loc's and Hefty's resealable plastic bags and not have any drop in sales since people will just buy the great value brand that replaces their position on shelves.


You don't know that they wouldn't have any drop in sales, let alone profits, by doing such a thing.


If you follow the CPG space, they spend millions on brand advertising that is becoming less affective as newspaper advertising and tv advertising is on the decline.

P&G has been on the decline for years. Dollar Stores selling no name products have been on the rise.


Dollar Stores are on the rise because people can't afford quality anymore.


There is a very noticeable difference between the quality of Ziploc and Hefty brands versus Great Value brand.


Some people might have enough brand loyalty to Ziploc that they will go to a store that carries them


As long as I remember there have been no complaints about restricting advertisements. (Although plenty of other anti-competitive behaviour)

Amazon touts a 'free' marketplace where anybody can sell and advertise their product. Yet it uses its monopoly on ads within their domain against others.


Brick and mortar stores buy from wholesalers and resell.

Amazon facilitates direct transactions between buyers and sellers. It also participates as a seller.


They still source their products from the same manufacturers as the brand products. It is just the label or the fragrance that is slightly different. In Amazon’s case it sources it’s copied product from different manufacturers. So once you get a successful product you cloned by a powerful Amazon. And Amazon can always do it cheaper than you.


Considering Walgreens and Target don't own 50% of the offline marketplace, Perhaps that could be a factor.


Amazon has 5% of retail.

Walmart is still larger.

https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/331054/report...

Geeks have been complaining for decades that companies shouldn’t be able to patent stuff because “it’s on the internet”. Why limit the relevant market to “on the internet”?


I don't think anything good would be lost if store brands went away as an anti-monopoly measure. They're usually just rebranded from some other company anyways. No need for the retail store to be double-dipping.


They're usually just rebranded from some other company anyways

This is a common belief, and also mostly false. I think it's common because it used to be true, but isn't anymore.

With the economies of scale that a company like a Target or a Wal-Mart have these days, plus the ever-declining cost to manufacture goods, most store brands are actually run for those stores, and not re-labeled big brand goods, or seconds that were rejected by the primary contractor.


Depends on the product really. Some name brands don't even formulate the product themselves but rather just stamp their name on it just like the stores would. The result is the true manufacturer is able to manufacture the same good under multiple brands rather easily.


The inhouse brands are quite often cheaper for the consumer. That's worth something.


They're cheaper because they're not "brand name". That doesn't mean the not brand name option needs to be owned by the retail store.


Given the margins it might be that the only reason they're cheaper is they any discount from selling it under a store brand isn't reversed by having to pay profits to a pointless middleman.

I don't see a problem with them selling their own banded stuff, or even if it's cheaper, in most senses.

I do see a big problem with using what most people consider to be an open market that you can get anything on (even whole computers!) and specifically using that power to inhibit competition by having different advertising policies. It's not like those products were pulling an epic and refusing to give Amazon a cut of the sale, or doing something illegal -- just being banned from visibility is ridiculous abuse of monopoly power.


I always thought store brands are cheaper because they don't need any marketing spending like the name brands have to keep doing.


Every little bit helps... these margins are tiny.


Part of the reason they are cheaper is they are owned by the store and thus get cross-subsidies.

This is probably bad for the brand name products but very good for consumers.


I'm not sure about this. I think a lot of why store brands work is because you trust the store not to cheat you. If the product is bad you know who to blame. The store wants the product to be good because they will loose customers of they make bad house brand products.


A store that sells third party off-label products can still do quality control on those products and can take responsibility for what they sell, just as they would remove faulty brand-name products to protect their reputation.


They could remove it.

But if consumers have a choice between Advil and CVS brand Ibuprofen, they must trust the CVS brand but not some other brand.

But the question remains - is the consumer being harmed? Store brand OTC drugs have existed for decades and have been cheaper than brand names.


A long time ago, in organic chemistry we had a lab where we decomposed multiple brands of acetaminophen pills including tylenol to measure the content of acetaminophen . And well, Tylenol is the only drug that 20 or so independent groups that was even close to its labeled dosage. The off brands were as bad as 60%.

But there's alot of shady as fuck shit that goes on in the OTC and generic market where they are produced largely overseas in labs that intentionally cut corners and the FDA doesn't give a shit. In fact, the FDA announces their inspections ahead of time which allows the labs to cheat.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/16/7235458...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/11/opinion/sunday/generic-dr... (One FDA inspector ended up quitting because of his consistent findings in unannounced inspections he made and the FDA not giving a shit and reducing violations)


So are you saying that pharmacists are making a bad decision when they buy OTC products? Are they that uninformed?

https://freakonomics.com/podcast/how-to-save-1-billion-witho...


No, pharmacists know the precise dosage is not very important. But domestic companies are held to a higher standard than imports.


And then they would be more expensive because they have to advertise and have their own supply chain. How does that help consumers?


There are grocery stores which sell cheaper off-label products that aren’t their own. The makers of those products don’t advertise and thus pass those savings to the consumer. It’s a system that’s already proven to work.


Are we trying to protect consumers?


The in-house brands are cheaper because they are double dipping on margin and can afford to under cut their competitors. This is only good for consumers in the short term and bad for the health of the market place overall.


It's also because I'm not paying for a $1 advertising for my $3 box of cereal.


That is also true. It's the other huge advantage the store brands have... there is little need to advertise Kirkland to get sales.


> can afford to under cut their competitors.

Undercutting is good though. It lowers prices. Undercutting should be encouraged.


You'd lose Costco's Kirkland brand, which is one of those rare instances of the store brand often being better than the name-brand.


Most of the Kirkland brand products are white-label products made for them by companies that sell competing name-brand products.

Costco has employees that oversee the QC of these white-label products.


Quality control is basically the differentiator in modern manufacturing.

Intels high price chips, and low price chips are often the same chip except the low priced one failed quality control and had some of its circuits turned off.


This common process is called binning, in case anyone wants to read more on it.

Wikipedia article, as a primer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_binning


Chip binning is something of a special case. Most of the time, when part of a product fails, you have a useless/unsellable product that needs to be reworked or scrapped.


Why can't they still sell it at stores which they don't owe?


Bear in mind, I have no idea how wholesalers work in this day and age. But once upon a time, a wholesaler like Costco sold stuff at cost (e.g. they charge what they paid the supplier for the product), and their revenue derived from the annual membership fees. So it's not in Costco's interest to start selling Kirkland Brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Safeway, because it wasn't a profit center to begin with. The whole point of selling their own branded product was:

a) To reduce costs by controlling the entire means-of-production

b) To ensure quality control on the product and build faith in the brand, which in turn

c) Pulls people into the store, forcing them to buy a Costco membership if they want the product.


With regards to (a), Costco doesn't do that. Their entire Kirkland line is white-label products, excepting their pizzas which use dough made by regionally locally bakeries. They do have employees oversee (b), but they don't oversee the actual production; they conduct random inspections of shipped products.

For example, Kirkland coconut water is simply white-label Vita Coco, and the made by label indicates it is packaged for them by the same company that produces Vita Coco.


I'm not sure about the old days, but I believe Costco has stated they cap their markup at 15% -- which along with membership fees pays for employee salary, operations, and profit. I'm guessing that's overall and some products are more profitable while others (like their rotisserie chicken) are subsidized.


Better to cancel the line than supply competitors with better cheaper products than your own store.


Sorry I don't get the point. Costco's competitors selling Costo's cheaper product would still harm costco ?

Does costco get some extra benefit if the consumer buys Kirkland from costco ?


> Does costco get some extra benefit if the consumer buys Kirkland from costco ?

Yes. Costco positions their store brand as a major part of their appeal. This attracts more consumers to their stores, which

A. Increases membership, for which there's an annual fee, and

B. Increases traffic, increasing sales of high margin items as well as the low margin store brand.


Costco's value proposition is that they make (on average) no net income from sales of their products, and that you will find no other competitor who can sell the same quality products at a cheaper price (because costco's already selling them as cheap as possible). In exchange, they ask you to pay a membership fee, which is their net income.

If they were to give away their reputation to other sellers by letting them sell their QC'd products, they would be lowering the value of their memberships.


If Costco sells their products at other stores they are effectively shooting themselves in the foot: It is providing the lower price of their products to be accesed without paying for a membership; which is how Costco makes money.


That's not always the case. Sometimes the white label results in a small decrease to the name brand and captures sales to a different market.


One of the reasons I keep a Costco membership is for access to Kirkland products. And I think they know that a lot of their customers feel this way.


> I don't think anything good would be lost if store brands went away

A cheaper alternative for consumers?

Consider some consumer good made overseas produced at the same factory for both the name brand and store brand. As a consumer why should I have to pay for the huge marketing spend the name brand needs to recoup?

I don't see how harming consumers is a useful end of anti-monopoly laws.


No-name brands don't have to be store brands, and aren't always.


So now we are going to pass laws that disallow cheaper house brands to “help” consumers?


With the rare exception like Costco, cheaper house brands often imply they're equivalent to brand name goods, but take unadvertised shortcuts in process and/or feedstock, misleading consumers who don't take the time to carefully compare to weigh whether the shortcut is worth the value to them.

I wouldn't mind house brands as much if supply chain information and process information was transparent across all companies, but that supply chain information is a pseudo-trade secret (and for real-time supply chain information, definitely a trade secret) [1], and you can forget about obtaining process information. I do use house brands for some goods personally, but this is the result of many years of a lot of careful vetting and monitoring ingredient lists that I know is not commonplace nor even feasible with many retail consumers.

House brands can be a useful tool in the market, but they can be abused in too many ways for me to relax my vigilance as a consumer. They also can be abused in too many ways in their distribution channel role to obtain highly-granular, time-sensitive competitive information that normally wouldn't be available in the open market, for me to completely accept their unregulated deployment.

I wouldn't go as far as to say ban house brands by law. But I wouldn't want to keep them completely unregulated in all contexts like we are currently doing, either.

Happy to change my mind with any new information anyone cares to share though, as this isn't an area I keep a close eye upon.

[1] https://www.importyeti.com/


With the rare exception like Costco, cheaper house brands often imply they're equivalent to brand name goods, but take unadvertised shortcuts in process and/or feedstock, misleading consumers who don't take the time to carefully compare to weigh whether the shortcut is worth the value to them.

This is not true. I used to have a number of consumer products clients when I was at a firm. Store-brand products are all made for the stores by name brands as part of their white label programs (excepting clothing, since the transaction flows are different for that industry).

Usually the way it works is that the white label product is the same as the standard product, but with store-selected packaging. In most cases, the differences are purely cosmetic (as with cereals, which are made for most stores by General Mills and its competitors.) In a few instances, the store brand is usually a white label version of the brand name's discount brands, such as the store-brand products at the 99 Cents Only and Dollar Stores.

I wouldn't mind house brands as much if supply chain information and process information was transparent across all companies, but that supply chain information is a pseudo-trade secret (and for real-time supply chain information, definitely a trade secret) [1], and you can forget about obtaining process information.

This information is known within the industry. As 99.99999% of customers don't care about the supply chain of a store brand product, they don't include that information on the packaging. But then again, neither do the name brands. In some cases, you can the name of the manufacturer by asking the store's corporate office, and they'll usually tell you. Generally, they don't have access to "process information" for how the product is manufactured because they're just buying the product from the manufacturer. Whether the manufacturer will tell you depends on the product.

I wouldn't go as far as to say ban house brands by law. But I wouldn't want to keep them completely unregulated in all contexts like we are currently doing, either.

House brands are subject to the same regulations as name brands.


It's absolutely trivial and cheap to buy two boxes of cereal and open them up to see that the store brand version is quite different from the name brand.


Housebrand OTC drugs in particular are the same as the name brand equivalent. There was a Freakonomics episode where they said pharmacists overwhelmingly choose house brand OTC products.

House brands of any product have to pass the same relevant regulations.


Yep, likely because OTC pharma is a tightly-regulated market? However, there are still gaps I haven't found explanations for yet, so I must be misunderstanding how house branding works. For example, house brands have not materially impacted the insulin market [1] even though it is quite regulated to my best understanding. Even when insulin patents expire, there haven't been house brands introduced on more modern formulations [2] [3]. Nor have house brands moved into vaccine production.

There is probably much, much more than meets the consumer retail eye to house branding, and I'd love to get an insider's look at the factors and considerations around the decision to roll out a house brand product.

[1] https://insulinnation.com/treatment/why-walmart-insulins-are...

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955122/

[3] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/insulin-market-shakeup-p...


Even when insulin patents expire, there haven't been house brands introduced on more modern formulations [2] [3]. Nor have house brands moved into vaccine production.

This is because house brands are made by the name brands. In order to maintain their competitive edge for their name brands, they don't offer the modern formulations white label to the stores, and vaccines generally are not permitted by FDA regulations to be sold white-label.


Thanks, I didn't know that about vaccines, where can I find out about this? For DT, there is one generic label [1]. I don't see the commonality of the few others that are generic as well [2]. So the FDA regulation will be interesting to see. Combined with the daunting financing challenges with vaccines [3], that might explain why there are no white label vaccines?

In a couple of my previous links, some of the more modern formulations like Humalog came off of patent protection in the US around 2017, but no one outside the manufacturer has picked up white label manufacturing. A lot of times house branding just seems like market segmentation to me based around packaging when the original manufacturer is making the same product, but many times I've picked up a house brand and a name brand packaged food for example, and find sugar is higher up in the ingredients list in the house brand (and the nutritional panel reveals it is a significant ranking change).

Thus house brands seem like an obfuscation of the market to my uninformed eye so far. They seem to act in the macro scale as a way to prevent real competitors from arising and taking away real revenue and margin, by stuffing the distribution channel with SKU's that give a slightly larger cut to the distributors in exchange for maintaining the same vendor count (thereby making it much more difficult for a competitor to gain shelf space).

Those incentives probably all change around with an ecommerce site like Amazon. I just find this aspect of free markets fascinating as a layperson.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/dtap-tdap-td/hcp/about-vacc...

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/vaccines-list.html

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221811/


some of the more modern formulations like Humalog came off of patent protection in the US around 2017, but no one outside the manufacturer has picked up white label manufacturing.

For drugs, generics still need to prove that their own product meets safety standards and is the equivalent to the drug coming off patent protection. It's not cheap. For biologics like insulin, it's even more expensive.

Thus house brands seem like an obfuscation of the market to my uninformed eye so far. They seem to act in the macro scale as a way to prevent real competitors from arising and taking away real revenue and margin, by stuffing the distribution channel with SKU's that give a slightly larger cut to the distributors in exchange for maintaining the same vendor count (thereby making it much more difficult for a competitor to gain shelf space).

That's not how retail works. Stores are more than happy to put new products on the shelf, especially if they sell well. They don't "maintain vendor count," they allocate shelf space based on actual sales. If a product doesn't sell well, it loses space to better-selling products on a daily or weekly basis (depending on the store). New products show up all the time, and depending on the arrangement with the manufacturer have between a week and a month to show their selling power. (New products are usually on a consignment basis so the manufacturer only gets paid if units sell.)


> That's not how retail works...they allocate shelf space based on actual sales.

Thanks for explaining what goes on behind the scenes! I don't have the terminology for this since I'm not in the domain, so what is it called when a Wal-Mart or Home Depot or grocery chain purchasing department selects a vendor for a product, but will not consider another similar vendor, because physical shelf space is finite? For example, I see Lincoln welding machines, but not Miller, Fronius, or some white label from China at Home Depot, and every Home Depot has the same amount of shelf space set aside for welding machines, but all Lincoln. There isn't even experimentation with an alternative brand with one model.

Based upon your description, that finite physical limitation is not able to be strategically used by incumbents to take the oxygen out of the room for other vendors. One way to suck the oxygen out is to sell more. But if I'm an incumbent, and I get a chance to sell exactly the same product in house brand packaging for slightly less margin with a greater chance that a competitor won't get to see the same shelf, I'll take those reduced margins all day long. For a marginal loss in profit, I block shelf space without having to grow my sales by some commensurate amount to take up the same blocked shelf space. So why won't that work in the real world?


Does that also mean that Nintendo and the other console makers can’t produce first party games? Does Roku have to get rid of the Roku Channel? Can Epic no longer release Fortnite on its own platform?


Her specific plan had a lower bound of 25 billion in revenue.


Her plan is basically a way to dethrone the very largest companies, while allowing the next tier down to engage in the exact same behavior.

I.e. it targets the most successful companies, but does nothing for new entrants who are struggling against the market power of multi-billion dollar corporations.

The plan prioritizes the needs of capital over either efficient management or innovation.

It’s a great way to guarantee the worst aspects of capitalism while eliminating its benefits.

From what I hear, she was handed this plan by strategists who hoped it would have populist appeal.


I don't understand what's being said here. I think what's confusing to me is that this post appears to express that dethroning the very largest companies isn't prioritizing efficient management or innovation. I would think regularly churning incumbents at the very minimum prioritizes innovation.


No innovation needed.

If you ban the incumbent from using a business practice that other still-big companies can use, those other companies will just use that same practice to scale up to the threshold size.

This is exactly the opposite of innovation.

Innovation would mean someone coming up with a new business of some kind that could actually displace the incumbent on its merits.


A soft cap on company size is at worst orthogonal to innovation, not "the opposite".


First of all, there is no soft cap on company size being proposed. Just the use of a certain strategy.

But a cap on how big you can get using that strategy, prolongs the usefulness of the strategy indefinitely. Using legislation to prolong the life of a strategy that would otherwise be vulnerable to innovation is exactly the opposite of innovation.


I don't understand. If it's legal for some companies to use a strategy, that prolongs the usefulness compared to a world where it's legal for every company to use the strategy?


Yes.

In what you just said:

Some = everyone who hasn’t already made it to the a higher tier.

This removes the incentive for anyone to work out how to defeat an incumbent who is using the strategy, since they are forced to stop using it by law and not because a better alternative has emerged.

Indeed you might even expect it to become more virulent.

Imagine if Apple knew in advance that at some particular arbitrary revenue level, they would no longer be allowed to operate a store.

That would create an even stronger incentive to lock in their advantages through other means.

It might well have tilted the playing field in a direction where Apple chose to adopt Facebook style addiction dynamics as a strategy or risk being outcompeted by someone who did.

The way out of the Apple walled garden is for someone to build an alternative that is better.

There are many promising ways to do this.


> This removes the incentive for anyone to work out how to defeat an incumbent who is using the strategy, since they are forced to stop using it by law and not because a better alternative has emerged.

If my goal is to win through innovation, I would rather fight against multiple smaller non-innovating incumbents than one big one that can crush me with money.

> That would create an even stronger incentive to lock in their advantages through other means.

> It might well have tilted the playing field in a direction where Apple chose to adopt Facebook style addiction dynamics as a strategy or risk being outcompeted by someone who did.

> The way out of the Apple walled garden is for someone to build an alternative that is better.

Or they make an alternative that's Facebook style addictive...

It seems to me like one consequence of your argument is that encouraging innovation is dangerous because Apple might innovate in a bad way.

That makes most of this irrelevant to deciding whether market caps are good or bad. You came up with a scenario where caps lead to something bad, but the same kind of scenario could apply to a world without them.

And remember that if someone actually does start taking market share from Apple under the current laws, they still have the option to do the bad things you listed, and they'll be just as effective.


It seems to me like one consequence of your argument is that “encouraging innovation” is dangerous because Apple might innovate in a bad way.

Is this meant to be a good faith steel-man of my argument?


Yes. You're trying to encourage a lot of innovation, but your bad alternative scenario seems to be innovation gone wrong. I'm not sure how I could remove either part of that while keeping the spirit of your argument.


I don't really understand your thinking.

Why do you think dethroning the largest companies does "nothing" for new entrants? What do you think would help new entrants?

And why do you think dethroning companies won't have benefits? If nobody has a throne, then you improve competition. This increases the benefits of capitalism, while diminishing the bad effects of a company taking over the market. How could this "guarantee the worst aspects"??


Microsoft and Sony both have more than $25 billion in revenue. What happens when a company gets above $25 billion in revenue? Do they have to divest?

Also, that means that none of the cloud providers could have a marketplace where they sell third party solutions. ElasticCo, Mongo, and plenty of the open source companies sell software through the marketplaces of all three cloud providers. Would that be disallowed to?

Do you think any of those companies that sell through the cloud provider’s marketplace would like that outcome?


> Microsoft and Sony both have more than $25 billion in revenue. What happens when a company gets above $25 billion in revenue? Do they have to divest?

That is the expected outcome, yes. That the spin off their marketplace business as a separate entity.

> Also, that means that none of the cloud providers could have a marketplace where they sell third party solutions. ElasticCo, Mongo, and plenty of the open source companies sell software through the marketplaces of all three cloud providers. Would that be disallowed to? Do you think any of those companies that sell through the cloud provider’s marketplace would like that outcome?

They would probably be ecstatic. Those marketplaces would either be spun out or be replaced by a third party market, that would have an incentive to feature their products above the cloud provider's own products if those products brought more money to the marketplace.


No they wouldn’t be. (Standard disclaimer I’m a consultant at AWS but far removed from the sales side).

I’ve been a dev lead for a non software company. I was trying to get training for my team on AWS. I had to go through all sorts of issues and approvals and POs and making sure that they are an approved vendor.

Then I just said forget it. AWS was already an approved vendor. I signed everyone up for an ACloudGuru account through the marketplace using the authority I already had.

I needed an intrusion detection and intrusion prevention system. Again, I just went to the marketplace and bought something through the marketplace.

You think it’s hard to get consumers to use third party app stores. You have never been through a corporate procurement process.

Besides the marketplaces basically let you search the AMIs that AWS offers alongside third party AMIs. No company is going to trust random third party marketplaces.

I assure that every company on the marketplace wants to be on the same bill as your AWS bill. Half the reason departments go to the cloud is to get away from the gate keepers. Once you get approval from the powers that be to use AWS, it’s much easier to buy off of the marketplace.


I've been through many corporate procurement processes, so I understand where you're coming from.

But I disagree. First off, if Amazon couldn't offer their marketplace, if it were profitable, they would spin it off.

Secondly, they would almost certainly work out a co-billing deal, where approved marketplaces could bill through AWS, because they too know about the value of being already approved. It would also be a way for them to keep making money off of a marketplace if they couldn't run one anymore.

My point is, if AWS could not run their own marketplace, I'm sure solutions would come up to enable a 3rd party to work as smoothly as possible.


If those marketplaces “billed” through Amazon what is the practical difference? Amazon still gets a cut and now you have two middlemen trying to make a profit.

Also, wouldn’t AWS open itself up to more liability if it had no approval process for individual vendors?

I thought the purpose of the internet was to reduce the number of middlemen?


In this world, Amazon gets an equal cut whether you buy one of their offerings or a third party. It also starves them of competitive data.


How would Amazon get an “equal cut”? Amazon makes money on using their infrastructure. So now are you going to also make AWS a dumb VPS and all of the 160+ services sold on top of it a separate business? You realize that there is tight integration between many of the services. So will it benefit consumers if they lose that type of integration? What about services that are not just “spin up an EC2 instance and pay for an AMI” like S3, Lambda, load balancers, etc?

If supposedly technologically literate people on HN can’t think through all of the negative repercussions, how do you expect representatives in Congress - one of which grilled Zuckerberg over Twitter’s policies to do so?

Why not just get rid of this whole capitalism thing and let the state run everything with “5 Year Plans”?


at least with roku we're already seeing that conflict of interest with them trying to use their position to leverage more money out of HBO Max


Ironically, Apple is the most open streaming platform.

- you can pay for a subscription off site

- any app can integrate with the TV app. If you search for a movie/tv show and it is available for purchase from Apple or via a subscription that you already have, it will show you your free options first.


So how would this rule apply to the Apple App Store, for example? Presumably it wouldn't prevent them from making free stock apps like Mail, Safari, and Maps, right? Would they still be allowed to offer these apps, so long as they are free and are not privileged over third-party apps?

Or would Apple be prevented from offering any apps whatsoever? I would think a rule like this would be bad for consumers, and would also lead Apple to draw different lines between what is an app and what is a built in OS functionality (i.e., migrate app functionality into the OS itself, in order to avoid the rule).


Imagine a world in which only third party app stores are allowed on iPhone. Now imagine Apple having to compete with all the other Maps, Mail, and Web Browsers.

Do you think their native apps would be chosen over the others in a fair competition?


is "25 billion" forward looking or a specific carveout against specific companies (basically gerrymandering)


Question for anyone who might know: how does this currently work with stock markets? Would it have to change?


This is a terrible idea. It's almost impossible to bootstrap a marketplace without participating in it. Amazon as a platform that people can sell their own stuff on is only possible because people were already using it to buy things directly from amazon.


The plan only kicks in once you have 25 billion in revenue.

So there is a generous bootstrapping period.


It's almost impossible to bootstrap a marketplace without participating in it.

This is obviously untrue. Walk into almost any store in the world, and you're in a marketplace where the owner is not also selling his own competing products.

There are vanishingly few exceptions, like garden centers, big box stores, and supermarkets.


There are three different things happening on amazon:

#1 Amazon selling third party products.

#2 Third party sellers selling their products.

#3 Amazon selling their own products.

You're pointing out that #3 isn't necesary, and that's true, but my point is that #1 is necessary and is how every store starts, then they might expand into #2 and #3.


#1 isn't necessary if amazon started as a logistics company, with smaller shops as their clients.


Stores aren't marketplaces, at least generally speaking. Consignment shops might count.

At a store (once again, generally speaking), the company buys things and re-sells them. In a marketplace you're buying directly from someone else (and they usually pay the marketplace operator a cut of sales afterwards, or an upfront fee to sell there).


And those stores arent as good as Amazon, according to millions of customers.


Ok, perhaps allow for a bootstrap period.


eBay and many others prove that it's definitely a possibility.


Would love to see how this applies to Apple App Store and Play Store.


Just love arbitrary dollar numbers so that they can claim to not target specific companies.

How about laws the apply equally to all. Seriously, go across the magical threshold and then what? You have to leave your own market place? Do we have then a list of exceptions and exceptions to exceptions?

Mickey mouse legislation is the reason the system is in such shambles and there are legions of lawyers just to navigate it all. Government which operates off the petty whims of the politicians is subject to abuse by all sides and you just best hope you stay on the right side.


What's even more concerning is that Amazon is promoting their own brands for searches. For example, when searching for "Smart TV", placements of their own Fire TV is on top: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=smart+TV&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

This is deliberate and not the result of the search algorithm. They even label the results: "Featured by own brands"


How is that different from Walmart or Costco featuring their own brand at prominent location in shop?


Not much. Both behaviors are anti-competitive and should probably be restricted.


If I type "Chrome" into Google search, I also get an ad for Google Chrome at the top (I was looking for Chrome, the English singer).


That is understandable due to the over-loaded word though. Without other context how does it know which of the two you are looking for? I know which of the two I'd be looking for information about, given I wasn't aware of the other until now.


I was about to comment against you but you are right. Searching "Browser" on Google shows Firefox first, Brave second, and then a bunch of web articles about browsers in general.


Just tried typing "browser" in the same Google search (using Firefox), it yields interesting results: I have Brave, Firefox, Firefox on Google Play, the Wikipedia article for browser, and not even one Chrome link.


Is it absolutely necessary to bring Google into every single conversation and then start bashing it?


Google is the new Trump :P (relax, its a joke)


If I'm reading it right, the restriction is that 3rd parties can't buy branded Amazon keywords like "Alexa". I imagine that might come back to bite them if that policy doesn't apply to other brands. They also have some brands that are problematic, because the brands have really generic names like "Ring".

And this just sounds really unwise: "Roku Inc., which makes devices that stream content to TVs, can’t even buy such Amazon ads tied to its own products"


> And this just sounds really unwise: "Roku Inc., which makes devices that stream content to TVs, can’t even buy such Amazon ads tied to its own products"

To everyone wondering how it's an antitrust issue, I think this quote right here hit the nail on the head.

Edit: On the other hand, I just looked up Roku and it's all Roku devices, I guess as long as I don't see an Amazon product on that first page that's fine. It's still weird you can't buy ads for your own product's very name though.

I can't read the full article due to paywall unfortunately, but if they didn't do a more thorough investigation I think someone might just have to, to make sure Amazon's not putting their own ads where they don't allow competitors to buy ads for products they don't actually own themselves like Roku, if they aren't then maybe they're just trying to protect the results given back.


Interestingly, if you search "Smart Speaker" though it's wholly dominated by Alexa and Alexa-compatible devices.

"Smart Speaker Google" also lists just Amazon Echo devices.

"Google Speaker" just comes back with accessories, and then has a 'recommended product' which is the Echo Dot.

"Google Home" comes up with the echo dot as a recommended product...

Typing in "Google Home Hub" actually brings up the google home hub! Immediately followed by 5 alexa devices...


This is why I've essentially stopped using Amazon. I can't trust their search, I don't want in on Alexa ecosystem (No creepy always-on devices in house), and prices are better elsewhere or generally equal.

About the only saving grace of Amazon is shipping speed, but even then it's almost easier to pop over to a Target etc. So I always check local stores via their app.

I was worried last year about Amazon-geddon, but I think most other stores have caught on and upped their game.


Google is getting a taste of their own medicine in search. I wish shopify would do something to compete with integrated payments, returns, etc (Opt-in for sellers of course).


I just typed "Alexa" into Google search, and I got:

1. a shopping carousel entirely full of echo products (2nd card is on Amazon.com) 2. a paid ad from Amazon 3. several videos about echo products 4. q&a about Alexa rest of page: more Alexa related results

So, to your point, no, Google does not do anything like this.


It's funny cause I've looked up Android Tablets in the past and gotten Amazon's which I think is a little misleading since technically you're not getting Android proper. Not that their tablets aren't just as functional, but it might trip up someone who doesn't know any better.


> Not that their tablets aren't just as functional

Their tablets certainly aren’t as functional when it comes to the selection of apps available, unless you jump through weird, unsupported, highly fishy hoops to install Google Play on them.


Do you mean you're not getting pure AOSP Android or Google Play Android? Because you're certainly getting a device running the Android operating system...


The former is what most people want and expect when looking for Android.


I have no idea how you determine that. I suspect most have no idea what AOSP Android even looks like. Almost every manufacturer has a custom UI layer. AFAIK Google's Pixel phones and the Nokia Android One phones are the only ones offering something like a "stock AOSP + Google Play" experience.


Well I meant more in regards to Google Play being bundled, most people mostly care about Android + Google Play, whatever other customizations most people don't care as long as it doesn't get in their way.


There is no android proper. There’s google play services and the android os.

The fire tablet is using the android os


Can't read it either, but my first guess from the parent comment's quotes was that the story was saying competitors can't:

1. buy ads for amazon product-name keywords to compete with amazon by also selling amazon products.

2. buy ads for amazon product-name keywords to compete with amazon by selling one's own non-amazon products.


Amazon outright banned the sale of Apple TV and Chromecast on Amazon’s marketplace for years, until Google/Apple agreed to include Prime Video. Amazon faced zero consequences. This isn’t new behavior.


Off on a tangent but does anyone else feel depressed at the state of TV streaming? We have 3 companies with their own proprietary streaming devices and protocols which all work great inside their own ecosystem but suck outside of it. Apparently open standard protocols exist but implementations are broken or incompatible on tvs and OSs are dropping support.

I have a few chromecasts sitting around but now I have an iphone they are all useless and I have to buy an Apple TV which is 4x-5x the cost of a chromecast and only works on my apple devices.


Our iPhone tends to work pretty well with our Chromecast Ultra as long as you are using apps and not safari. Most apps are cast enabled - Netflix, HBO, ESPN, YouTube, Hulu, etc. Hasn't been much of an issue at all.


Hm thats interesting. I want to cast from my nextcloud server and it seems to work on the android version of nextcloud but not the ios one.


Apple never banned “Amazon Prime”. Apple wanted Amazon Prime from day one. Why wouldn’t Apple want Amazon Prime on Apple TV’s when it already existed on iOS devices ?


I didn’t say Apple banned anything? What I’m referring to happened in 2015.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-01/amazon-wi...


> until Google/Apple agreed to include Prime Video

Your phrasing definitely implies that had disagreed to include Prime at some point.


You still made it sound as if Apple and Google didn’t “allow” Amazon Prime on their devices. Amazon wouldn’t ship Prime Video on their devices.


Surely Target/Walmart would be allowed to display their own in-house brands on end-caps and not allow competitors to buy end-cap space if they want, right?

(Walmart's retail sales are higher than Amazon's retail sales, though that's likely to cross-over sometime in the next couple years.)


Sure, but then no product should be able to buy end-cap space. Not just disallowing competitors. And in fact, Target/Walmart clearly enforce limits on what is sold. They don't advertise 'Become an Amazon seller' or open advertising to anybody but a specific few. OTOH, just because I haven't heard any complaints about this, doesn't mean anything.


Walmart's marketplace seems quite open to me: https://marketplace.walmart.com/

Target is indeed gated by a person: https://corporate.target.com/about/products-services/supplie...


Supermarkets are a shitshow and from my point of view it's way worse than anything that's happening in the digital world. There are only a few players and that's where all people buy their groceries. If you're not there, you don't exist. And to be there, you need a really good deal.

Product placement (whether you need to reach high low or if it's front of your eyes) make a bigger difference than a packaging which of course dominates over the content. Fancy packaging is also something that big brands can allow and probably protected by patents. Most of stuff you buy is likely from a company which was bought by Nestle. Nestle can negotiate, they can't be removed.

Smaller producers must provide the same product that they make under the supermarket brand so that market can get customers accustomed to good value and then they start looking if somebody can make something similar enough but cheaper.

It's much worse than as if Amazon ordered products by how much money they were paid from a given company and banned products from competitors of those who paid enough.

Free market is long gone in the groceries world.

I did not do enough research, I don't have behind the scenes information, I just think about it sometimes when I'm shopping. I'd love to be proven wrong or read a good book or some article on the topic.


target/walmart buy from wholesalers and then sell to customers, that's fundamentally different from how amazon works which is to facilitate a sale directly between sellers and buyers.



How is this not antitrust? When are we going to stand up to this, only once its too late and USA stands for United States of Amazon?


It is antitrust, I don't know why you're getting downvoted. Antitrust isn't just about monopolies, people.

You can boil it down to a company having too much power and abusing this power to harm competitors which ultimately harms consumers; which is exactly what Amazon is doing in this case.


You should thank Robert Bork for gutting the proper understanding of antitrust in US.


[flagged]


It's a good thing not only one person is working on all issues at once or we'd have to wait for them to be scheduled to work on this far too long from now.

How many Bureaucrats exist? More than enough to handle a single issue at a time.


You've obviously never met a bureaucrat. One issue is pushing it.


They take as input infinitely many issues and output infinitely many issues. The problem you point out is one inherent to all turing machine automatons, precisely: "When will they, if ever, be done executing?" :^)


It’d be nice if they restricted sponsored ads from all the fraudulent third-party sellers.


For that to happen, they'd have to identify the third party sellers that are fraudulent, and for that to happen, they'd have to care.


Funny how corporations are ok to regulate the heck out of their "open platforms" but people see the government enforcing fair(er) trade as anti capitalistic and freedom slashing. Is it just me or that's cognitive dissonance? That said, it's a dicey subject, what's fair and what's not.


Seems like 'Company gives preference to its own products on its own store' which is hardly surprising.


Correct, and this is why trustbusting is so important. Because "Company uses market advantage in one market to force competitors out of an unrelated market." is not a healthy long-term behavior to allow.


I think “unrelated market” is a tough sell for this case. The two markets are “selling things” and...”selling things.” They’re pretty closely related.


I think you are expanding the categories so much as to be useless. Selling books (Amazon's original market) is entirely unrelated from selling home security systems (Amazon Ring). Transportation/logistics (Amazon marketplace) is entirely unrelated from server space as a service (AWS).


Right, but "selling basically any physical shippable goods" has long the primary business of Amazon.com.


No, the two markets are selling things and making things. If Amazon is the sole gatekeeper of getting something from a factory to a customer, it will naturally do everything in its power to boost its own factories and drive all others out of business.


So, no firm that makes things would be able to...sell things? That doesn’t sound very viable.


It's a little more complicated than that as Amazon is also running a "marketplace" inside it's own store. Amazon isn't buying these products and reselling them like a traditional retailer, they are providing a marketplace for business and consumers.


When Home Depot or Walmart buys a bunch of product with the right to return to the vendor any product that doesn't sell-through, is it really that bright-line different?


As someone who has experience trying to "sell" a product to both Home Depot and Walmart no, it's not a bright line difference. I guess my point was that Amazon, and others like Apple like to argue both ways:

"It's OUR store, we can deny anyone for anything." and "It's a MARKETPLACE, we can't be held liable for bad behavior or fraud!"

The offline giants would love to have these same arguments.


Antitrust?


Amazon sell devices?




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