Amazon is being accused of favoring big spenders and its Prime members.
A report from nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica revealed that the online retailer’s price-comparison pages actually rank products in favor of items either sold by Amazon or merchants who pay the company to ship products for them, Recode reported on Tuesday (Sept. 20).
Amazon sorts products by price, including the shipping fees, for some products but not for others. The products sold by third-party merchants that do not participate in Amazon’s shipping service were ranked based on the price and shipping price together. While those products sold directly by Amazon or the third-party merchants that participate in its shipping service were ranked without the shipping price, which made them show up on the price-comparison page as much cheaper.
“We found that the practice earned Amazon-linked products higher rankings in more than 80 percent of cases. Amazon’s offer of the Loctite glue, a respectable number five on the comparison list, dropped to the 39th best deal when shipping was included. (The prices Amazon shows are ranked correctly for those who pay $99 per year for Amazon’s Prime shipping service and for those who are buying $49 or more in eligible items.),” ProPublica explained.
The price comparisons presented are accurate for Prime members who receive free shipping and customers that spend more than $49 to receive free shipping. But ProPublica’s report points out that, for customers that don’t fall into one of these two categories, the prices shown may not accurately reflect the true cost of the product.
In response to Recode’s request for comment, Amazon said:
“With Prime and Super Saver Shipping (which requires no membership and ships orders above $49 for free), the vast majority of our items — nine out of 10 — can ship for free. The sorting algorithms the article refers to are designed for that 90 percent of items, where shipping costs do not apply.”