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Monopoly Critics Decry 'Amazon Amendment' (thehill.com) 52

schwit1 shares a report from The Hill: The amendment, Section 801 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would help Amazon establish a tight grip on the lucrative, $53 billion government acquisitions market, experts say. The provision, dubbed the "Amazon amendment" by experts, according to an article in The Intercept, would allow for the creation of an online portal that government employees could use to purchase everyday items such as office supplies or furniture. This government-only version of Amazon, which could potentially include a few other websites, would give participating companies direct access to the $53 billion market for government acquisitions of commercial products. "It hands an enormous amount of power over to Amazon," said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a research group that advocates for local businesses. Mitchell said that the provision could allow Amazon to gain a monopoly or duopoly on the profitable world of commercial government purchases, leaving smaller businesses behind and further consolidating the behemoth tech firm's power.

schwit1 adds: "Well, this is a two-edged sword, isn't it? Government spends too much and takes too long to buy its simple office needs, but streamlining that process and cutting costs puts more money in the pocket of Jeff Bezos."

Monopoly Critics Decry 'Amazon Amendment'

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  • Shit Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Thursday November 09, 2017 @06:12PM (#55522219)

    This government-only version of Amazon, which could potentially include a few other websites, would give participating companies direct access to the $53 billion market for government acquisitions of commercial products.

    So this isn't about Amazon, it's about approved vendors having an easy-to-use site/portal for government purchasing.
    That's a good thing. We have this where I work. We get decent discounts because of it, and no one vendor is dominating.

    Yes, Amazon would have an advantage here because they'll be able to devote resources to setting up shop quickly and making everything work well.
    But so what? That's no different than the rest of online shopping. Further, Amazon is often not the cheapest, and with an easy-to-use portal/site, it'll be easy for government purchasers to find the cheapest price on shit (if they even care).

    • Re: Shit Article (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You have some good points but you are hand waving away the bad aspects of this.

      I suspect it will work like everything else in America. Company X has the resources to "contribute" to a politicians campaigns in return for "recommending" their portal. . Just like big pharma did to our doctors. It will be hookers, blow, and maybe some blackjack. A bunch of companies jockeying for position. Let the market figure it out.

      I think first to market doesn't play that big of a role. As long as it's truly open, people ca

      • I suspect it will work like everything else in America. Company X has the resources to "contribute" to a politicians campaigns in return for "recommending" their portal.

        Politicians don't recommend portals.

        We have a buying system at our Uni. Just implemented. It has a dozen vendors, including, I think, Amazon. It certainly includes Staples or Office Max. Adding a vendor to the portal requires asking. That's all. Then the accounting folks set it all up.

        This isn't a vast conspiracy for some huge monopoly to take over the planet. There's too many vendors involved to call it a monopoly.

        A bunch of companies jockeying for position.

        Yes, that's what it is. There are a bunch of companies involved. You just shot your conspir

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Haven't you heard - Amazon is EEEEEEVIL!

      You're basically Hitler if you don't buy everything from local family owned competitively priced stores that stock everything you need and are located nearby to everyone!

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      To me, the primary reassuring thing about all of this is that the normal Amazon store freely lists competitors products alongside Amazon-sold products on the main page. If Amazon is just running the shopping portal, but any competitor (who meets the government procurement requirements etc) can list alongside them on that same portal, then more power to them.

      A monopoly on items sold is troubling. A monopoly on the portal software? Meh.

    • the Amendment was written specifically for Amazon, probably after some measure of lobbying. Government contracts are, by and large, a means of wealth redistribution in America. It's the closest we get to socialism. So folks get a little uppity when they see the juiciest contracts just immediately handed out to somebody like Amazon. Especially with how poorly Amazon pays it's rank and file.

      Now, if you can get real socialism in America (e.g. Medicare for all, college for everyone, $15 minimum wages, infras
      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        Wealth redistribution from the middle to the upper classes, sure. With contractors like Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed, Blackwater (nee Xe), or Halliburton, it's curious the media suggests the US govt. should draw the line at Amazon. Most of the US welfare institutions involve the govt. giving large amounts of money to megacorporations, and calling it a win for the little guy. Actually, nearly ALL actions by the US govt. can be summarized as thus.

      • by quetwo ( 1203948 )

        This really isn't anything new. There are a ton of GSA approved vendors, many of them have "one-stop shopping" sites that do direct billing.

        CDW-G, for example, allows you to already get anything computer/electronics related.
        Graybar, for construction materials
        Granger for supplies, etc.

        When you buy from them, you don't need a bid (unless it's over your direct purchasing limit). This really isn't a change -- it just adds Amazon to the mix.

        • This really isn't anything new. There are a ton of GSA approved vendors, many of them have "one-stop shopping" sites that do direct billing.

          And the idea of combining them into a one-stop buying portal isn't new either. We've got one here -- one central buying portal with several vendors where the end user can "buy" things, the authorization goes to an accounting person who makes sure the money is available and the buyer is authorized, and then the bill goes to accounts payable.

          And Amazon, while one of the vendors, certainly isn't the only one. Like you say, Graybar is one I remember. Office Max for sure for office products. And adding more ve

    • by Anonymous Coward

      no one vendor is dominating.

      But that could happen if one vendor has consistently lower prices and faster shipping. We need to stop that from happening. To ensure fairness, we could require them all to sell at a fixed price, and shipping should be delayed based on geographic location so that no vendor has an advantage.

    • There's a good reason it's a shit article. It's from the Intercept. The intercept is Russian run, and used by them for stories that are more US focused but they don't want associated with the Kremlin directly.

      Take anything you read there with an entire box of salt.

    • As a Gov purchase card holder in a past life, I have first-hand experience with just how shitty GSA is. My group needed a handful of licenses for Adobe Acrobat Pro. NewEgg had them for ~$90, as did Amazon and a couple others. I was forced to buy each copy for $150 from a GSA-authorized vendor. I could have saved the government $500+ with that one purchase, but instead they bound my hands.

      The gov won't be giving *every* purchase to Amazon since every purchase the gov makes must be done via a competition with

    • People are too focused on rich people and big business. You hear a lot about the rich paying their fair share, but not much about the poor getting anything. This was a key point in my dispute about the GOP tax plan in one of my recent press releases [johnmoserforcongress.com]: the GOP plan doesn't put much of anything into the hands of the poorest.

      This is another natural consequence: folks say, "Oh, maybe the Government can be more fiscally-responsible--WAIT NO, NO, KEEP SPENDING $200Bn MORE THAN YOU NEED TO BECAUSE FUCK JEFF

  • Compare this with military base exchanges (PX/BX). There is a bidding and qualification process for these, and then a vendor gets to be present in the captive markets of US military personnel who mostly shop on their base. So, it's a closed market operated by the US government that benefits the relatively few larger corporations who enter it. No-one is upset about that.

    I'm not a big fan of Amazon's market power, but the reality is that they have changed retail: you have to be at least as good as Amazon to s

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Compare your example with GSA Advantage [gsaadvantage.gov], where companies do such bidding and qualification and also pay the GSA for the privilege of being a supplier. In exchange, they gain access to the captive audience of the US government.

      It sounds like this is just offloading that backend work to someone else.

  • This is fine. No reason to artificially block efficiency.

    Just stop giving Amazon tax breaks then.

  • Except for being average sized and male, I am otherwise an Amazonian. I have the Prime membership, the Fire TV, and though I never plugged in the Echo, I will often purchase an item under the protection of the Amazon umbrella even if it's available somewhere else a bit cheaper.

    Last Christmas though, I made a couple of purchases on other web sites that I could've made on Jeff's.

    Why? I just don't think one retail outlet should have an utter stranglehold on the marketplace. Competition is still the best r

  • This is a little off-topic, but I have to ask: how did Amazon get to where they are? I can't stand using their site. Their search function is terrible, and their prices are no better than any other online retailers. Every once in a while, I'll find something that only Amazon is selling, but that's really unusual. Anyone else out there feel the same?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Easy returns with prepaid shipping tags

    • Not-really-free-2-day-shipping. It's a little extra on the upfront base cost, but it beats the 2 day shipping costs of the competition every time.

      My prime membership pays for itself every gift-giving holiday on a single big gift shipping cost (which they giftwrap for me), the 12 year old likes amazon prime video, and the firestick upstairs is a perfect platform for kodi, hulu, netflix, local news, and plex.... better service compatibility than even the various raspberry pis I've tried for that specific job.

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      More or less by accident, and being easier to use (Specifically in the payment department) than everyone else. Seems like most retail sites want me to create an account just to browse their site, and no, I don't want to create an account with them for a one-time purchase. Amazon results seem to turn up on most google searches for specific items and I already have an account with them, so it's easy. You have to keep an eye on them, though -- it seems like a number of their vendors just buy stuff down at the
      • More or less by accident, and being easier to use (Specifically in the payment department) than everyone else.

        Being easier to use isn't something that happens by accident.

        Amazon got where it is by starting with one narrow market and then expanding. Amazon USED to be "books". Amazon had a big warehouse full of books, much more inventory than any brick and mortar could manage. The B&M could special order anything you wanted, but at that point they lost their advantage of immediate purchase. They always lost when it came to convenience for things that weren't needed immediately.

        They won the book market, new and

  • Well, this is a two-edged sword, isn't it? Government spends too much and takes too long to buy its simple office needs, but streamlining that process and cutting costs puts more money in the pocket of Jeff Bezos

    Government spending may be inefficient, but it creates economical activity. Now if its expenses go directly to a fiscal paradise, that positive outcomes vanishes.

  • CONSIP [consip.it] in Italy should be the equivalent system for Italiy.
    The problem is that is a yummy target for bribing [www.ansa.it]
  • The government already has this, they call it GSA Advantage! https://www.gsaadvantage.gov/a... [gsaadvantage.gov]

    Our company is a vendor on it and it is a PITA. I don't expect anything new to be better. It's going to be the same garbage crap. My favorite part is they demand proof that you are giving the government the lowest price you charge any customer. Then they make you do hours of paperwork for any small order. And finally they audit the living crap out of you. They asked us to provide detailed quotes from every sale we

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