The COVID-19 pandemic brought great sales volume to Amazon as quarantined consumers looked to the ecommerce giant to supply their every need. However, this success will likely come with a cost — higher scrutiny from regulators. Amazon has struggled with public image over the past few weeks. Many have been concerned with safety conditions in the company’s warehouses and recent public resignation of a senior Amazon Web Services executive. Since the beginning of the pandmic, U.S. lawmakers have demanded that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testify whether the company has misled congress about rival data misuse. It seems that Amazon will be the subject of many questions in coming days.
The ecommerce giant is expanding its brokerage division one year after the initial launch, much to the dismay of other carriers and freight brokers. In one survey, FreightWaves found that eight out of ten carriers and freight brokers think Amazon’s entry into the space was negative for their market segments. With the recent expansion, Amazon is offering brokerage services in 48 states. The shipping website, freight.amazon.com, says it now services “all U.S. states except Alaska and Hawaii.” Previously, access to the site was restricted to only pre-approved shippers, now, this restriction has been taken away.
Amazon Prime deliveries are slowly returning to normal. In March, the company suspended delivery of non-essential items and closed warehouses in response to COVID-19 demand, and some employees testing positive for Coronavirus. Although it appears long delays are over, it seems it will be a long time before guaranteed two-day shipping can be expected again.
Amazon is testing two new programs to screen new sellers, acknowledging a problem with fly-by-night operators, fraudsters, and counterfeiters. Although these programs are a good start and will improve the trust and security of the marketplace, many believe there’s still more that could be done to protect both brands and customers. In the past, seller verification has been a largely automated process. Counterfeit sellers have been able to hack the system. One new method requires potential sellers to participate in a video call in order to be verified and active on the site. Amazon is also advertising three positions for a ‘Seller Onboarding Associate.’ It seems these workers will be tasked with collecting information and documentation from sellers before they can start selling.
Brian Huseman, who oversees public policy for the Americas at Amazon, wrote in a blog post that it isn't enough for individual states to have their own rules about drastic rises in prices for in-demand goods (like hand face masks and sanitation products) during emergencies. "While each state is unique and has the ability to enact individual legislative price gouging triggers and remedies, a federal price gouging law would ensure that there are no gaps in protection for consumers," Huseman wrote. Currently, only about two-thirds of states in the US prohibit price gouging. Amazon claims to have suspended more than 4,000 seller accounts for violating fair-pricing policies on the site.