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Amazon to hold virtual seller conference as lawmakers examine its power over third-party merchants

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Key Points
  • Amazon is hosting a virtual conference for third-party sellers from Sept. 1 through 3, called Amazon Accelerate.
  • The three-day event will give third-party sellers tips on how to grow their businesses and features a keynote address from Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon's retail division.
  • It comes as regulators are closely examining Amazon's power over third-party merchants.
Men work at a distribution station in the 855,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon on Wednesday announced a virtual conference to help new and existing U.S. third-party sellers grow their businesses, as regulators continue to examine the kind of power the company holds over merchants on its marketplace.

The new conference, Amazon Accelerate, will run from Sept. 1 through Sept. 3. The company said it will be the "largest ever U.S. event dedicated to seller success," with Amazon's CEO of worldwide consumer, Jeff Wilke, delivering the keynote address. Other top executives will host discussions during the event, including Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon's vice president of worldwide customer trust and partner support, and Amazon fashion group leader Christine Beauchamp.

"We are deeply invested in empowering small businesses, and now more than ever, it is critically important for us to bring our seller community together as we all navigate new economic realities," Wilke said in a statement. "Amazon Accelerate will help these entrepreneurial organizations find new ways to serve customers, grow, and expand." 

Amazon last year hosted a series of conferences across the country for businesses that sell on its marketplace. More than 1,800 sellers signed up to attend. 

Amazon Accelerate, which is free to attend, will be held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sellers will be able to tune into panels like "Growing to a $1 Million Business" and "Responding to Changes in Consumer Demand," as well as participate in live Q&As with "Amazon experts."

The conference comes as regulators set their sights on the ways that Amazon treats and competes against the third-party sellers that now account for approximately 60% of Amazon's physical sales. In the last quarter, Amazon said third-party sales grew 52% year over year, compared with year-over-year growth of 23% in the same period last year.

Amazon has pushed back against accusations that it squashes third-party sellers by harnessing data to create rival products and charging them high fees for services like advertising. The company said employees are prohibited from accessing individual seller data, but a recent report from The Wall Street Journal found Amazon employees used nonaggregated or easily identifiable data from third-party sellers to build its own competing products.

The issue was front and center during a high-profile hearing before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust last month. CEO Jeff Bezos testified he couldn't guarantee Amazon hasn't used data from third-party sellers to help launch private-label products. He also sought to characterize merchants as "selling partners" rather than competitors.

Amazon also touted its relationships with sellers in its annual small business report, released ahead of the hearing last month. Third-party sellers sold more than 3.4 billion products on Amazon in the year ended May 31 and averaged about $160,000 in sales during the period.

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