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Description: Canada’s competition bureau is taking on Amazon, the giant of the retail world that has only grown stronger during the Covid-19 period. The basic problem, as has been observed by US Senator Elizabeth Warren, is that Amazon owns the marketplace, and the company sells its wares in that same market. This conflict of interest causes concerns around the pricing of its goods versus other sellers in the market, and, about how Amazon may be sharing customer information across its various structures, such as Alexa, Whole Foods, and the regular Amazon online store. Former Amazon V.P. Jeff Bray has said “Amazon’s strategy of growth over profits doesn’t make any sense at all, unless your end goal is to become monopolistic in size to point in which you regain pricing power.”

Date:  October 11, 2020

Source:  thestar.com

 Link: https://www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2020/10/10/the-competition-bureau-needs-to-come-up-with-recommendations-that-target-the-inherent-conflict-of-interest-around-third-party-sellers-head-on.html

Discussion points:

1) Have you been using Amazon’s services more in recent months?

2) What did you find was the most interesting part of the article for you?

3) Did you ever think about the title of your accounting text, Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making? What tools from this text could accountants apply in assisting the Competition Bureau in this examination of Amazon?

2 Responses to “Taking on the Giant”

  1. Jessie LeGrand, Andrew MacDonald, Tevin Lewis

    1) We’ve all been using amazon a lot more than usual, primarily due to the pandemic. With all the restrictions imposed due to COVID 19, it can be hard to access goods at in-person stores and Amazon, being the largest E-commerce store, is considered reliable and quick for ordering those needed goods. Even after the pandemic is over, we may find ourselves still turning towards online shopping rather than in-person shopping simply out of convenience.

    2) There were two points that stuck out to us in the article. The first was that Amazon does not really focus on building profit, but rather on building growth. Being the largest online seller and Ecommerce platform, it’s shocking that they are still seeking to expand even more, selling products for a lot cheaper than they need to. The second point that stood out to us was the fact that Amazon does not actually get most of their money from actual sales, but rather through advertising and their Amazon Web Services (which is essentially selling data to other third parties).

    3) One thing that accounting teaches us is how to analyze the data and pick out what is most useful for best understanding the financial position of the given company. The gross profit margin is a useful tool in this context, as the fact that Amazon’s sales revenue is surprisingly low for a company of that size, means that the ratio is going to appear different than what one may expect, making it a good red flag that something else is going on. The operating margin is supposedly 3.4% in North America, and negative elsewhere, which should be unsustainable for a company only selling goods. Keeping in mind who owns the inventory, the fact that 20% of the goods amazon sells actually belong to other sellers will also affect their sales revenue (goods on consignment).

    Reply
  2. Anna Hardie, Shaobo Gong, Katherine Anne Hanscom

    Group 5: Anna Hardie, Shaobo Gong, Katherine Anne Hanscom

    Dr. Brent White

    COMM 2101

    Oct. 25th, 2020

    WWAU 1: Taking the Giant

    1) Have you been using Amazon’s services more in recent months?
    We have been using more delivery services such as Amazon and Taobao since COVID-19 has started. People are using delivery services depending on their needs. Shaobo is currently living in China and orders groceries by Taobao, while as Anna who is living in Canada uses Amazon for school supplies. Some other usages of these delivery services were for buying electronics as well. Because stores and the government are advising people to not go out too much, we are utilizing delivery services to help halt the spread of COVID-19.
    2) What did you find was the most interesting part of the article for you?
    There were a few interesting points in the article that we discussed. First, it was interesting to learn that Amazon collects data on what third-party sellers and products are trending to help boost and advertise their own Amazon products. Second, the challenges and complexity of how the Canadian Bureau will investigate Amazon’s ethics on market dominance will be something that will likely take time. Third, we discussed the ways in which Amazon will be examined as an integrated entity in the marketplace.
    3) Did you ever think about the title of your accounting text, Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making? What tools from this text could accountants apply in assisting the Competition Bureau in this examination of Amazon?
    A key consideration is, as pointed out in the article, that “most of the profit [Amazon is] making comes from its cloud-computing segment — Amazon Web Services (AWS).” This makes Amazon a data company as much as it is a delivery company. Amazon holds lots of buyer/seller information and can profit off of holding and selling this market information. Massive data collection allows Amazon to overlook a big portion of the market economy during COVID-19 and use the data to gain monopolitstic power. The Competition Bureau could impose a limit on how much Amazon’s profits come from AWS and advertising. In other words, Amazon a limit would be put on how much they can advertise their own products. Moreover, it is possible that Amazon will be required to disclose what information gets collected and how it is used to gain market and price dominance. According to WileyPlus, accounting systems are complex because they are influenced by factors such as “type of business and its transactions, the size of the company, the amount of data, and the information that management and others need” (WileyPlus, Chapter 3). Thus it is important that Amazon becomes transparent on what information it collects. Third, we also believe that the Competition Bureau should limit the amount of customer data collected by Amazon or have Amazon pay for the data they collect. If Amazon chooses to buy the data, that money could be transferred to 3rd-party businesses who sell on Amazon.

    Reply

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