Furor surrounds Amazon’s comparison-shopping app Price Check
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) entered the fray, calling the promotion “anti-competitive” and “an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities.” Amazon defended the device as pro-consumer and not anti-small business.
The skirmish is the latest dispute between Amazon and traditional retailers, which have complained for years that tax laws often give online retailers an unfair advantage in states where they are not required to collect sales tax. The fight was especially heated this year in California before the state and Amazon agreed that Amazon would start collecting sales tax next September.
Last month, the company appeared to reverse its position on collecting state sales taxes nationwide with it support of the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill in Congress. The legislation would allow states to levy sales taxes on goods sold there regardless of where the online retailer is located.
Amazon’s Price Check, promoted in recent months, has users identify a product by scanning its bar code, taking its picture or saying or typing in its name. The app then pulls up prices offered through Amazon.
Snowe urged Amazon to stop the promotion being offered Saturday. “Small businesses are fighting every day to compete with giant retailers, such as Amazon, and incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far,” she said in a statement.
Retail groups agreed. A spokesman for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness said “no retailer can compete” with Amazon because as an online retailer, the company is not required to collect sales taxes in many states.
The Retail Industry Leaders Assn., which represents many big-box retail chains, said the app unfairly encourages shoppers to use bricks-and-mortar shops as “showrooms” to check out a product before buying online.