|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (164117)||8/26/2020 6:50:53 AM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Etsy CEO says Amazon is trying to ‘wipe out its competitors’ by backing California consumer protection bill|
PUBLISHED TUE, AUG 25 20207:39 PM EDT
Annie Palmer @ANNIERPALMER
-- Etsy CEO Josh Silverman on Tuesday spoke out against Amazon’s decision to back a California consumer protection bill, AB 3262, saying it would burden small businesses with legal costs, effectively hurting Amazon’s competition.
-- Last week, Amazon said it would support AB 3262 if it’s expanded to include all online marketplaces, no matter how they do business.
-- “This is an abuse of market power play,” Silverman wrote in a blog post.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman on Tuesday accused Amazon of “taking bold steps to wipe out its competitors” by backing a new California consumer protection bill.
Amazon on Friday broke away from its peers when it voiced conditional support for the bill, AB 3262, which seeks to hold “electronic retail marketplaces” to the same liability standards applied to brick-and-mortar retailers. The bill has garnered opposition from Etsy, EBay’s public policy arm and a slew of industry groups who say existing law already protects consumers and that it will stifle small businesses that sell products online.
Silverman argues Amazon’s support of the bill is in bad faith, calling it an “abuse of power market play.”
“Amazon is taking bold steps to wipe out its competitors by promoting complex, hard-to-comply-with legislation that only they can afford to absorb,” Silverman wrote. “Amazon’s goal is to be the only place to buy stuff online, hobbling mom-and-pops that sell unique items in their own shops, or more frequently since COVID, through marketplaces like Etsy. Small businesses, struggling now more than ever, will ultimately bear the brunt of the overbearing burdens of AB 3262.”
An Amazon spokesperson pointed CNBC to the Friday blog post written by its public policy chief Brian Huseman. Huseman wrote that the company would support AB 3262 if it were to include “all online marketplaces regardless of their business models.”
“Injured consumers should be able to seek compensation regardless of how a particular online marketplace makes money,” Huseman wrote, pointing to how online marketplaces profit by charging sellers to list a product, by taking a cut of sales or via advertising on the marketplace.
On Monday, lawmakers amended the bill to include online marketplaces that profit off of advertising fees collected by merchants, seemingly in response to Amazon’s blog post.
Amazon’s move comes as California’s state senate is expected to vote on AB 3262 this week, after it was approved by the California assembly. Should it come to pass, AB 3262 would be the first U.S. law of its kind to hold online retailers like Amazon liable for defective goods sold on their platforms.
Earlier this month, Amazon was dealt a blow after a California appeals court ruled it could be held liable for damages caused by a defective replacement laptop battery that caught fire and gave a woman third-degree burns. The woman, Angela Bolger, alleges she bought the laptop battery from a third-party seller, Lenoge Technology HK Ltd., on Amazon’s marketplace.
Amazon has successfully fought lawsuits that try to place liability on the company for faulty products sold through its site that cause injury and property damage. It has long maintained that it’s merely a conduit between buyers and third-party sellers.
But the recent California ruling and the proposed liability bill may weaken that defense. Amazon oversees a sprawling marketplace that hosts millions of third-party sellers and now accounts for approximately 60% of the company’s e-commerce sales. While the marketplace has helped Amazon bring in record revenue, it has sometimes hosted counterfeit, unsafe and expired goods.
Amazon faces added pressure from regulators who are examining its efforts to police the marketplace, among other issues. CEO Jeff Bezos was grilled about the sale of counterfeits on the marketplace during a July hearing before the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee. Bezos said Amazon thoroughly vets sellers on its marketplace and called for Congress to pass tougher laws targeting counterfeiters.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||8/27/2020 8:34:26 AM|
|Amazon expands grocery business beyond Whole Foods with first Fresh store in Los Angeles|
PUBLISHED THU, AUG 27 20203:01 AM EDT
Annie Palmer @ANNIERPALMER
-- Amazon is opening the first location of its new chain of Fresh grocery stores.
-- The store, located in Los Angeles’ Woodland Hills neighborhood, will offer shoppers products at a cheaper price point than what they see at Whole Foods.
-- It will open to select Woodland Hills residents this week and to the broader public later this month.
Amazon’s first Fresh grocery store is set to open its doors this week.
Amazon is opening the first location of its new chain of grocery stores, which are designed to court a different set of customers than Whole Foods shoppers.
The first Amazon Fresh grocery store, located in Los Angeles’ Woodland Hills neighborhood, will open its doors this week to customers invited from the local area, the company announced Thursday. The store will open to the broader public in the coming weeks. Amazon has three other Fresh store locations, including in Irvine and Northridge, California, as well as Chicago’s Naperville neighborhood, all of which are being used for online order fulfillment. The company declined to say when they’ll open to the public.
Amazon is aiming to crack open a new segment of the U.S. grocery industry with the launch of its Fresh store, bringing the e-commerce giant into more direct competition with chains like Kroger and Albertsons. The new format incorporates a blend of in-store and online shopping, while offering consumers a variety of products at lower price points than Whole Foods. Whole Foods, acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion in 2017, is known for its focus on organic goods and doesn’t sell products with artificial ingredients.
The 35,000-square-foot store, which is roughly the size of a Whole Foods, will be stocked with supermarket staples like Nabisco cookies, Coca-Cola drinks and Kellogg’s cereal, as well as products from Whole Foods’ cheaper private-label brand, 365. Store aisles will also feature Amazon’s own brands, including Happy Belly snacks, Cursive wine and a new line of Fresh-branded food products.
“We do think of these formats as complementing one another and serving different needs,” said Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh stores. “Whole Foods is a longstanding pioneer and leader in natural, organic and clean foods. Amazon’s Fresh selection is fairly different. We see them operating next to one another and we’re excited to offer customers the choice between the two.”
Amazon has also incorporated some unique high-tech touches to the Fresh store. The Woodland Hills location will be the testing ground for Amazon’s recently launched Dash Carts, which allow shoppers to check out without waiting in line. However, the store doesn’t feature the vast network of cameras and sensors powering Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which is used in its cashierless Go convenience and Go Grocery stores.
There are also kiosks located throughout the Fresh store equipped with voice-activated Echo Show smart displays, where shoppers can ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant for help locating items in the store or for suggestions on what to make for dinner.
Kiosks are located throughout the store that are equipped with voice-activated Echo Show smart displays, where shoppers can ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant for help finding items.
The stores are designed to balance the needs of consumers who order online and those who still prefer to shop in person. There’s a dedicated section where customers can pick up amazon.com or grocery orders placed online, or return their packages for free.
The Fresh store has a dedicated section where customers can pick up amazon.com or grocery orders placed online, or return their packages for free.
While Amazon has incorporated the experience of shopping online in the store, there are still signs of the traditional grocery experience, like a prepared food section where shoppers can order fresh pizza or sandwiches, as well as a seafood counter.
Amazon is expanding its footprint of physical stores at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the collapse of already struggling brick-and-mortar retailers. Many retailers have been hobbled in recent months by declining foot traffic, reduced consumer spending and a shift to online shopping, putting some at risk of permanent store closures.
The pandemic even altered Amazon’s own plans for its Fresh grocery stores. Until this week, all of Amazon’s Fresh stores were used as “dark stores,” or locations that are closed to the public in order to fulfill their needs for online deliveries. Last quarter, Amazon said online grocery sales tripled year-over-year in the second quarter and it increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160%.
“It wasn’t our initial plan, but we thought it was the best thing to do to serve the high customer demand we were seeing online only at that particular point in time,” Helbling said.
Amazon has also adjusted its operations in the store in light of the pandemic. It will require customers and employees to wear masks while in the store and it will limit the store to 50% capacity, among other safety protocols.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||8/27/2020 9:21:16 AM|
|Amazon unveils Halo to battle Apple Watch and Fitbit — tracks activity, body fat, emotions|
PUBLISHED THU, AUG 27 20209:00 AM EDT
UPDATED 2 MIN AGO
Christina Farr @CHRISSYFARR
-- Amazon has introduced a wristband for health and fitness tracking called Halo, alongside a subscription service and smartphone app.
-- It brings some new offerings, including technology to track people’s body fat percentages, sleep temperature, and their emotional state.
-- It’s Amazon’s first significant move into wearables, which Gartner estimates will be a $52 billion market this year.
Halo app and band
Amazon is entering the wearables market in a big way.
The company on Thursday introduced a wristband for health and fitness tracking called Halo, alongside a subscription service and smartphone app.
The space is currently dominated by the Apple Watch and devices from Fitbit, which is awaiting regulatory approval for an acquisition by Alphabet’s Google. Amazon’s Halo product builds on these older fitness-tracking devices with features that have never been seen in a mainstream wearable device, including one that tracks a user’s emotional state by listening to the tone of their voice, and another that provides a three-dimensional rendering of their body with an estimated body fat percentage.
It’s a departure for Amazon’s hardware business, which has previously focused on in-home devices, such as the Echo smart speakers and the Fire TV streaming video devices. Amazon showed off some wearable devices at its annual hardware event last fall, including wireless headphones and a set of glasses with built-in access to the Alexa voice assistant. But Halo is its first real shot at capturing a piece the fast-growing wearables market, which Gartner last year estimated would top $50 billion in 2020.
The company has spent several years preparing. Amazon’s Melissa Cha, a vice president at Halo, said the company already had expertise around machine learning and computer vision, but expanding into health required a whole new set of hires.
“We did a global search to find the best experts,” she said. “We found cardiologists, fitness experts, and people who had spent their careers researching sleep and wellness.”
The company has stressed its commitment to privacy with this new device and committed that it won’t use the insights to sell health-related products to its users. But it is a way for the company to learn more about their users’ health habits and gather feedback along the way.
Halo app home screen
It also ties in with Amazon’s broader efforts to capture a part of the $3.5 trillion health care sector. Five years ago, Amazon had no presence in the market. Since then, it’s added a team working on virtual health care offerings, known as Amazon Care, and joined Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan in an effort to transform employer health care. It has a health and wellness team under Alexa, its voice assistant, as well as a group focused on Covid-19. There’s also a secretive research and development “moonshot” team known as Grand Challenge, and a pharmacy-delivery group under PillPack.
All of these teams could be pulled together into a health solution spanning devices, software and services.
Helping people manage their help could also let Amazon build a deeper connection with customers. Health care is highly personal. If Amazon can build trust with users and get privacy right, while proving that it can improve people’s health care over time, it could unlock massive new revenue streams. The largest stakeholders in the industry, from health plans to employers, are all looking for ways to cut costs by keeping their populations healthier.
Focused on health
The Halo device resembles a Fitbit tracker far more than an Apple Watch. It’s a simple design without a screen, with LED lights and two microphones. The device comes in a variety of styles, and Cha said it’s meant to be kept on all the time -- it’s water-resistant for the shower or swimming, and it shouldn’t catch on clothes or bedsheets. There are also multiple sizes available for women with slender wrists. Cha said the company paid special attention to that, as many existing devices can feel overly clunky.
Amazon Halo accessory bands
The basic features of the Halo band will be familiar to anybody who’s used a fitness-tracker: It tracks motion, heart rate, sleep phases and skin temperature while sleeping.
At the same time, it provides a unique “points” tracking system that could be more effective than competitors in encouraging exercise.
In the morning, users will see a sleep score out of 100 and a report showing their baseline sleep temperature.
Halo app sleep feature
Unlike Apple Watch, which encourages users to close rings, Amazon Halo uses a points system when tracking exercise. It sets a baseline goal of 150 points weekly, and users get more points for intensive exercise, such as running or walking up steep hills. Steps are automatically tracked, but users must manually enter certain other activities, like swimming.
“This approach is more aligned with scientific guidelines,” said Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and principal medical officer with Amazon Halo.
Users who are sedentary for long periods — except during sleep — can also lose points. That’s a big difference from other products, which focus only on positive motivation.
Halo app activity feature
The battery lasts longer than Apple Watch at about seven days, in part because there’s no screen. The sole focus of the device is health and fitness, so there are also no features associated with making calls or accessing social media.
Cha said the team had debates about adding other use-cases, like social media or e-commerce, but ultimately narrowed down the scope to health. “Our focus was in offering a service, with a wearable that felt like just a part of that.”
Beyond the basics
But the device goes beyond traditional fitness-tracking with two unique features.
Tone is an optional feature that listens to the user’s voice throughout the day and analyzes that information to present a picture of how they felt -- for instance, showing times they were feeling energetic, hopeful, or hesitant. For instance, the device might pick up on an argument, or a tense conversation at work, and indicate that the user felt elated at 10 a.m. but hesitant thirty minutes later.
Amazon says none of the voice-based snippets are stored in the cloud and they’re automatically deleted once they’re processed. The company also said it won’t use the voice recordings for targeted advertising.
Body gives users a three-dimensional rendering of their body with information about their weight and body fat percentage. Measuring body fat percentage is typically difficult, but it’s a lot more helpful than the more widely used body mass index, which can mistake muscle for fat, leading to mistakes like labeling body builders as obese.
The Body feature uses the smartphone app, which guides users to stand in front of their phone in various positions, then takes photos from the front, back, and both sides. It then spits out a result in seconds. As users take scans over time -- Amazon recommends doing one every two weeks or so -- the Halo app generates a body model with a slider, which users can move back and forth to get a visual representation of their progress.
Halo app body feature
Amazon hopes ultimately to replace hydrostatic dunk tanks and pods, which typically require special access to a trainer or facility and are expensive, limiting them to athletesF and the wealthy. “We believe that everyone should has access to this important clinically relevant information about their own health,” said Majmudar.
The company said it tested the product on a wide range of body types, genders and ethnicities. Amazon stressed that the data can be deleted anytime and the images are automatically deleted from the cloud after they’re processed. But those who want to store their body scan images in Amazon Cloud can opt in to do so.
Partnerships and integrations
Users who have a specific goal in mind, such as weight loss, reducing caffeine consumption or getting better sleep, can opt to sign up to a challenge for a set period of time. Amazon refers to them as “Halo Labs,” and many of them include parnters such as the American Heart Association, WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers), Headspace, Mayo Clinic, and more. Amazon described these challenges as “science-backed,” meaning they are grounded in medical evidence.
Halo also offers integrations with third parties -- for instance, WW members who link their accounts will find that their Halo points translate to WW FitPoints. WW has a promotion for its members to get a free band and membership as part of its sign up process. There’s also an option to get a free device and three years of membership through John Hancock, a life insurer, for user that are willing to share their health information. (John Hancock also has a program with Apple, where policyholders can buy a discounted watch.)
Users who access their medical information via Cerner, one of the largest medical records companies, can also opt to share the health information gathered through Halo with their doctor.
The subscription model
Unlike an Apple Watch or Fitbit, users can’t buy the Halo by itself -- it’s only available as part of a subscription service. Amazon says this model could help the Halo avoid the fate of many wearables, which people typically use for a few months before relegating them to a drawer.
Users will be able to buy a single band plus a six-month subscription for an up-front price of $64.99 during an early access period, which starts Aug. 27. (Eventually that price will go up to $99.99, but Amazon didn’t say when the early access period will end.) After the first six months, users will have to pay $3.99 a month to keep the service going.
Style-conscious users can buy additional fabric bands for $19.99 and sports bands for $15.99. Those prices will also go up once the early access period is ended.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||8/31/2020 10:33:43 AM|
|Amazon wins FAA approval for Prime Air drone delivery fleet|
PUBLISHED MON, AUG 31 20209:48 AM EDT
UPDATED 29 MIN AGO
Annie Palmer @ANNIERPALMER
-- Amazon on Monday received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones.
-- The approval will give Amazon broad privileges to “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers,” the FAA said.
-- Amazon joins UPS and Alphabet-owned Wing, who previously won FAA approval for their drone delivery operations.
Amazon received federal approval to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones, a milestone that allows it to expand unmanned package delivery, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.
The approval will give Amazon broad privileges to “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers,” the FAA said. The FAA certification comes under Part 135 of FAA regulations, which gives Amazon the ability to carry property on small drones “beyond the visual line of sight” of the operator.
Representatives from Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon began testing delivery drones in 2013, aiming to drop off packages at customers’ doorsteps in 30 minutes or less. Last August, the company submitted a petition for FAA approval of those plans. In its petition, Amazon said deliveries would occur in areas with low population density and packages would weigh 5 pounds or less.
The company debuted a new, electric delivery drone at its re:MARS conference last year that’s capable of carrying packages under 5 pounds to customers within a half-hour and can fly up to 15 miles. Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO of worldwide consumer, said at the time that the drone could be used by the company “within months” to deliver packages.
Amazon isn’t the only company seeking to expand commercial drone delivery. Last April, Alphabet-owned Wing became the first drone delivery company to receive FAA approval for commercial deliveries in the U.S. UPS last October won approval from the FAA to operate a fleet of drones as an airline.
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|From: Sr K||9/5/2020 9:55:41 PM|
|Amazon Bans Foreign Plant Sales to U.S. Amid Global Seed Mystery|
Shift by the e-commerce giant comes as agricultural authorities investigate the delivery of thousands of packets of seeds
Seeds that appeared to have been mailed from China to U.S. postal addresses were displayed at the Washington State Department of Agriculture in July.
Updated Sept. 5, 2020 3:52 pm ET
Amazon.com Inc. is barring foreign sales of seeds into the U.S. after thousands of suspicious packets, many postmarked from China, arrived at households around the world this summer.
The move by Amazon comes as the mystery seeds led U.S. officials to raise alarms about the ease with which seed sales can occur on e-commerce sites, creating potential threats to U.S. agriculture.
Amazon informed foreign sellers that, effective Sept. 3, it would no longer allow the import of plant or seed products, according to an email viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The email said some overseas sellers would have their offers removed from Amazon the same day.
Amazon also updated its public rulebook to reflect the new policy, saying that importing seeds into the U.S., or the sale of seeds within the U.S. by non-U.S. residents, is prohibited.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||9/7/2020 10:19:57 AM|
|Amazon takes down a five-star fraud in the UK|
The company deleted 20,000 suspicious reviews following Financial Times investigation
By Zoe Schiffer @ZoeSchiffer
Sep 4, 2020, 6:24pm EDT
Amazon’s top reviewers in the UK appear to have engaged in fraud, leaving thousands of five-star ratings in exchange for money or free products. The company took down 20,000 product reviews following an investigation by the Financial Times.
Justin Fryer, the number one Amazon reviewer in the UK, left a five-star rating once every four hours on average in August, according to the FT’s analysis. Many of these reviews were for products from random Chinese companies. Fryer then seems to have resold the products on eBay.
A FIVE-STAR RATING ONCE EVERY FOUR HOURS ON AVERAGE
Scams like these typically start on social networks and messaging apps such as Telegram, where companies can meet potential reviewers. Once the connection is made, the reviewer chooses a free product, then waits a few days to write a five-star review. After the review is posted, they get a full refund, and, at times, an extra payment.
Amazon has a specific rule against posting reviews in exchange for “compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.” But nine of the 10 top reviewers in the UK seem to have broken that guideline, engaging in suspicious activity. The 20,000 reviews that were removed were written by seven of the top 10 reviewers.
The company was alerted to Fryer’s activity in early August. At least one Amazon user reported the man’s questionable ratings to CEO Jeff Bezos. This user was told the company would investigate, although it failed to take action until today.
Fryer maintains that he definitely did not get paid to post fake five-star ratings, and he says that his eBay listings for “unused” and “unopened” products were extras, according to the Times.
Regardless, his activity is not overly surprising. Fake reviews have been an issue on Amazon for years. In July, The Markup found sellers were engaged in a variety of tactics aimed at manipulating their ratings on the platform, including “review hijacking” where old ratings were attached to new, often unrelated products.
During the coronavirus pandemic, as more people shop online, the problem has only gotten worse. In May, 58 percent of products on Amazon in the UK seemed to have fake reviews, according to Fakespot, a firm that analyzes ratings fraud. “The scale of this fraud is amazing,” Fakespot CEO Saoud Khalifah told the Financial Times. “Amazon UK has a much higher percentage of fake reviews than the other platforms.”
In a statement emailed to The Verge, an Amazon spokesperson said the company analyzes reviews before they go public, processing 10 million submissions every week. “We want Amazon customers to shop with confidence knowing that the reviews they read are authentic and relevant,” they said. “We have clear policies for both reviewers and selling partners that prohibit abuse of our community features, and we suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate these policies.”
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