Amazon fills search results with ‘unlawfully deceiving’ ads: FTC complaint
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (AFP/File / Jim WATSON)

How Amazon displays paid ads is the subject of a new complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

"More than a quarter of search results on Amazon are paid ads, according to the complaint filed by the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions. But because the company doesn’t clearly label sponsored results, many consumers could be deceived into clicking on them without knowing, a practice that raises questions about the integrity and quality of Amazon’s search results, the petition alleges. The complaint, shared exclusively with The Washington Post, is based on an analysis of more than 130,000 search results for popular products, ranging from batteries to jewelry," the newspaper reported.

The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

"The FTC has issued guidance since at least 2002 to ensure large tech companies distinguish paid search results and other forms of ads from organic search results, which appear because they’re ostensibly relevant to a user’s search terms," The Post reported. "The FTC has long held that ads are deceptive if they imply information is being shared by an independent or impartial source, when it’s actually originating from a business trying to sell a product, said Jessica Rich, a former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection."

READ MORE: Amazon workers in Alabama get new shot at union after NLRB rules company broke the law in first vote

Rich explained why this complaint may appeal to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

“This has all the ingredients of the issues that the chair has said she’s interested in pursuing,” Rich said.

Amazon spokeswoman Tina Pelkey told the newspaper the complaint “misstates FTC guidance."

Read the full report.