Despite putting customers first, Amazon reportedly doesn't give the best prices to them outright. Instead, it highlights items of its own or merchandise of companies that are part of the Fulfilled by Amazon program.
Apparently, that's the case because of the retailer's pricing algorithm, and from the look of things, those who are in better terms with the platform have their products in more prominent positions — particularly the Buy Box spots, which online shoppers usually click "about three-quarters of the time" — compared with those who aren't, even though their prices are relatively way more expensive.
The injustice doesn't end there either, as Amazon is said to only do away with the shipping costs for its own and its partners' items. That means third-party sellers aren't included in the mix.
The Source Of This Amazon Revelation
Julia Angwin and Surya Mattu of ProPublica brought this matter to light, conducting an in-depth research to clear things up.
Of course, to get to the bottom of things, they had to get in touch with Amazon itself for an explanation.
Amazon's Statement And Reply
First off, the retailer outlined the factors involved in determining which products it leans online buyers to, and long story short, price is not the only element its algorithms consider.
"Customers trust Amazon to have great prices, but that's not all — vast selection, world-class customer service and fast, free delivery are critically important," Erik Fairleigh, an Amazon spokesperson, tells ProPublica via email.
After the researchers published their article, Amazon responded again to clarify everything.
"With Prime and Free Shipping (which requires no membership and ships orders above $49 for free), the vast majority of our items ordered — 9 out of 10 — can ship for free. The sorting algorithms the article refers to are designed for that 90 percent of items ordered, where shipping costs do not apply," the company says.
The Gist Of It All
To boil things down, Amazon isn't exactly in the wrong, as there are some unscrupulous merchants out there who use a low price point to appeal to shoppers but don't provide the expected quality of service in terms of shipping and whatnot. However, the current state of how things are being run could also be viewed as anti-competitive, giving companies that can afford to be part of the Fulfilled by Amazon program a huge advantage over those that can't.
Have you observed anything like this while browsing Amazon's selections? If so, feel free to hit us up in the comments section below and let us know.