Amazon adjusted its retail search algorithms to favor its own products and listings that would make it the most money, according to a bombshell Wall Street Journal report published Monday.
People who worked on the changes told Journal reporter Dana Mattioli that Amazon's retail executives pushed for the changes, despite resistance from algorithm developers and the company's own lawyers.
For more than a decade, Amazon's search listings primarily showed the best-selling and most relevant results. After the algorithm was reportedly changed, search results showed products that would be the most profitable for Amazon, such as the company's private-label products or third-party listings that would make Amazon more money than its own products.
Amazon now single-handedly controls 36.5% of US online retail sales. Its search bar is the No. 1 way for American shoppers to find products to purchase online, according to data analytics firm Jumpshot.
The retail giant currently faces an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation, which is probing whether Amazon uses its dominance to unfairly edge out competitors. Amazon's own attorneys voiced concern that changes to its search algorithm could violate antitrust laws, according to the Journal.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has attributed the company's success to its " customer obsession" principle, which touts its devotion to earning customers' trust. Employees told the Journal they were worried that principle was being violated by the algorithm changes.
In its statement to Business Insider, Amazon said it considers long-term profitability when designing algorithms, but denied that it changed its search rankings deliberately to be more profitable.
Amazon's private-label business currently represents less than $2 billion, but is expected to grow to $31 billion in sales by 2022, according to investment firm Suntrust Robinson Humphrey.