Back in July 2021, a Tennessee-based Amazon seller pleaded guilty to price-fixing of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs that he sold on the Amazon marketplace. According to the Department of Justice, David Camp conspired with others to fix prices of these items, which they perpetrated from at least as early as May 2018 until at least October 2019.
Camp was the first individual to be charged and pleaded guilty in the ongoing investigation. But just last week, three more sellers pleaded guilty to the price-fixing conspiracy—two from New York and one from New Jersey.
According to the information filed with the DOJ, Morris Sutton, Emmanuel Hourizadeh, and Raymond Nouvahian engaged in the same price fixing conspiracy that went on from at least November 2017 and continued until at least Oct. 29, 2019.
Price-fixing involves an anti-competitive agreement by market competitors in which they collude with one another to fix the prices of goods or services, instead of allowing prices to rise and fall naturally based on market forces.
A criminal violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals, with the Judge having the discretion to increase the maximum imposable fine to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
In order to carry out the conspiracy, the perpetrators conspired to, among other things, engage in discussion of prices concerning the prices of DVDs and Blu-rays throughout the United States, agreed to suppress competition by fixing the prices for such products sold through the Amazon Marketplace, and monitor each other to make sure that the agreed prices were adhered to by all conspirators.
The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division refers to this case as an “ongoing investigation”, which means that more sellers could have been involved in the conspiracy and more charges may be forthcoming.
The first seller to plead guilty was scheduled to be sentenced January 7, 2022, and the three others are scheduled for September 30, 2022.
More Fish to Fry
While the guilty pleas are welcome news for honest sellers on the Amazon platform, other deceptive trade practices have plagued Amazon for years. For instance, some sellers (and even Amazon itself) have been accused of price gouging at the height of the pandemic, that is, taking advantage of increases in demand by charging ridiculous prices for necessities.
Another pertinent problem is sellers bribing Amazon insiders to maximize profits and even put competitors out of business.