Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) said on Monday it was investigating suspected internal leaks of confidential information by its employees for bribes to remove fake reviews and other seller scams from its website.
According to a Sunday Wall Street Journal report, Amazon has been fighting the practice-which is particularly pronounced in China, though also present in the US -since May, when management was tipped off that it was happening.
The representative declined to answer questions beyond a statement.
While some instances have been traced to U.S. employees, the practice is reportedly rampant in China among Chinese Amazon employees and local third-party sellers.
Based on a report from Wall Street Journal, Amazon employees are helping independent merchants by providing them with sales data, deleting bad reviews, recovering banned accounts and more in order to give them an edge over other sellers.
These practices may help sellers' products appear higher in search results, bettering their chances of attracting customers.
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This comes according to both merchants who bought said information, and brokers who sold it, both of whom talked to the publisher, along with "people familiar with internal investigations".
As per the conduct of its own employees, the spokesperson said, "We hold our employees to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our Code faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties".
The Journal said independent brokers had used Chinese messaging service WeChat to connect independent sellers with Amazon staff.
In his most recent annual letter to shareholders, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos wrote, "In 2017, for the first time in our history, more than half of the units sold on Amazon worldwide were from our third-party sellers, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)".
Amazon is investigating charges that some of its employees might have leaked internal data to merchants.
Likewise, Amazon struggles with preventing the sale of counterfeit products on its site.