Amazon fires employees over data leak as it fights seller scams: report

Amazon has fired several employees suspected of providing independent merchants with inside information as the company tries to crack down on seller scams, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Amazon let go of several workers in the U.S. and India who allegedly inappropriately accessed company data that disreputable merchants had misused, people familiar with the company's effort told the Journal.

The dismissals came after Amazon began investigating suspected data leaks and bribes of its employees, which the Journal reported in September. 

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Amazon is focusing its internal bribery investigation on India, a person familiar with the effort told the paper.

Some employees in India and China working as customer support have said that their access to an internal database that allows them to find data about specific product performance or trending keywords has been dramatically limited. 

Amazon has also deleted thousand of suspect reviews, restricted sellers' access to customer data on its platform, and quashed some methods to force the site to bring up certain products higher in search results, the people told the Journal.

Amazon told The Hill in a statement that the company is cracking down on people who try to undermine merchants on its website, sometimes employing machine learning to block destructive acts. 

"We have strict policies and a Code of Business Conduct & Ethics in place for our employees. We implement sophisticated systems to restrict and audit access to information," the company wrote. 

"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." 

"In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, and taking legal action," Amazon added.

Still, Amazon says some sellers are working to sabotage others, maliciously flagging products as counterfeit or infringing on trademarks, the Journal reports.

Flagged products are pulled from the site as Amazon evaluates their legitimacy, hurting the sales of legal products.

Some merchants are purchasing Amazon wholesaler accounts illegally to gain access to volumes of product listings, people familiar with the practice told the Journal.

The accounts can be used to alter rivals' product pages to undermine them, the people said.  

Amazon is also combating fake reviews of products, scrubbing thousands of reviews from single products in a day in some instances. One person familiar with the matter told the Journal that some of the reviews caught up in the purge were actually legitimate.

Updated at 11:34 a.m.