Amazon patent blocks consumers from comparing prices online while inside a store



Consumers shopping for books at Barnes and Noble often use their phones or tablets to do a bit of comparison shopping by calling up Amazon's website. There is no telling how much business Amazon has generated this way. Ironically, Amazon has recently received a patent for an algorithm making it harder for shoppers to check out competitors' pricing online while at an Amazon owned retail store.

The patent makes it more difficult for a shopper hooked up to the store's Wi-Fi network to visit the website belonging to an Amazon competitor. The Physical Store Online Shopping Control patent analyzes the websites being visited by a particular shopper. If the algorithm determines that the website belonging to a competitor is going to be accessed, it redirects the customer to Amazon's own site, or to other sites approved by Amazon. The customer might even receive an Amazon coupon on his phone, or get approached by an Amazon sales rep trying to persuade the customer to make his purchase right on the spot.

Amazon now owns six physical bookstores, and will soon own 465 Whole Foods markets. Amazon's patent will prevent customers inside these stores from doing any comparison shopping that might save them money, but at the expense of Amazon's profits. Funny what happens when the shoe is on the other foot.

source: USPTO via WashingtonPost

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43 Comments

1. Flash

Posts: 1972; Member since: May 19, 2017

And here we go. Amazon is becoming too greedy.

35. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

Yet you know who....isnt?

2. AJtheAndroid

Posts: 42; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

What if I'm on cellular data as opposed to store hosted WiFi?

3. DrakenFX

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 05, 2016

If you are using data (carrier) as long you block location request , I believe we are going to be fine

38. combatmedic870

Posts: 983; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

@#3 Incorrect, they would not be able to control cellular data. Just their own wifi. It's being their own wifi is the only way it's possible. Location request or not. They pay for the wifi, so they can choose what you are allowed to access.

4. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

This would never fly in Europe. Onlt in Murica!

12. hatersgonnahate

Posts: 10; Member since: Jan 24, 2015

Land of freedom f*ck yeah

36. PrYmCHGOan

Posts: 335; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

And the brave!

5. Greenmule

Posts: 128; Member since: Apr 24, 2017

The funniest thing of all is that Jeff Bezos owns all three: amazon, Whole Foods *and* the Washington Post. More control by the .01%

6. Podrick

Posts: 1284; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Really anti-competitive. Besides, how could something this simple be patented? Let alone the companies, even some wannabe tech guy can do this. Once again, patent law benifiting only rich and powerful.

9. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

I think they wont use it.. they just want to prevent other companies from doing it..

13. Podrick

Posts: 1284; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

@ibend, That might be right. Good thinking!

31. lyndon420

Posts: 6607; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Honestly what's stopping other companies from actually doing this...patent or not? Imagine being in a competitor's bookstore and not being able to search Amazon's prices...what do you think Amazon would do about it? If you're connected to a particular company's wifi network we have no choice but to abide by whatever their terms are. Now if you are on your own mobile network it would be very unlawful for them in my opinion to dictate/hijack your phone in such a way...regardless of whether you have location sharing enabled or not.

10. Leo_MC

Posts: 6939; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

How is this anti-competitive? It's just like blocking porn, except that instead of porn it's another web site.

14. Podrick

Posts: 1284; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

How the hell did you even come to a conclusion that porn and this are remotely similar? I can't even..

16. Leo_MC

Posts: 6939; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I have asked you a question: how is blocking a site anti-competitive? And I gave you the example of blocking porn-sites.

18. btbotimtim

Posts: 272; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

porn sites need age verification. level of your analogy is below middle school.

19. Leo_MC

Posts: 6939; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The age verification is done by the site, not by the ISP, and not by the Wi-Fi owner.

22. tedkord

Posts: 17201; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The answer is pretty simple - they are blocking sites that show price comparisons for products from competitors. That's the whole purpose of the patent. That's anticompetitive. Now, as someone above stated, it could be that they're securing the patent to suit on it so no one can use the idea. That would make sense, as Amazon probably benefits from price comparison in many cases. That wouldn't be anticompetitive.

39. combatmedic870

Posts: 983; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

@tedkord, is not anti competitive, they are paying for the wifi. They can choose what sites you access. The porn analogy was actually a good one. It's their wifi, they are providing it for free. If you don't want to use it, use cell data... Simple.

43. tedkord

Posts: 17201; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It is anticompetitive, because it directly blocks competing sites. It's designed to stifle competition specifically. Google pays for their search, provides it for free, but they have been fined for anticompetitive search results.

41. Leo_MC

Posts: 6939; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

They are blocking some sites on their OWN WI-FI; how on earth is that anti -competitive?

29. Podrick

Posts: 1284; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Seriously dude? You're asking to explain common sense? Again? I've seen you do this many times before. Are to trying to annoy people on purpose? I'm not trying to be rude or anything but many of your comments makes me scratch my head.

42. Leo_MC

Posts: 6939; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Have you ever wondered if your so called "common sense" is flawed? If you can't logically explain something you believe in, than you may have a problem with the logic. I'my asking you again: how is blocking a site on your own network anti-competitive and what competition principle - I won't ask you for a law, unless you're an expert - it breaks?

20. Greenmule

Posts: 128; Member since: Apr 24, 2017

A few points: 1) no matter what Jeff Bezos "says" about net neutrality, his actions tell us how he regards it: he's against it. 2) Because this action is not net neutral, then,without a cellular connection, Bezos limits freedom of choice 3) Limiting my ability to choose in a retail environment is anti-competitive. You'll never get a price match guarantee at Whole Foods. 4) Put a warning label on the door and let customers know that when using Whole Foods WiFi, you entering the Twilight Zone. 5) it's anti-competitive because the consumer, when using Whole Foods WiFi, won't be able to find out that the local, 3-store chain, has Project Verified chicken breasts on sale. How greedy can you be? We all need to eat. net neu·tral·i·ty noun the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

23. tedkord

Posts: 17201; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Net neutrality is dead for the next four years. Anything the ISPs want they're going to get. It's likely Amazon is patenting this to sit on it so no one can use it. Price comparison benefits Amazon in the majority of instances. Besides, with the return of unlimited data, who cares about store WiFi?

27. Greenmule

Posts: 128; Member since: Apr 24, 2017

see post #26

30. tedkord

Posts: 17201; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Ok, I saw post #26. It doesn't change anything I stated.

40. Leo_MC

Posts: 6939; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

2. You do realize a company has the right to block whatever sites it wants over it's OWN NETWORK? 3. You do realize that nobody is forcing you to USE AMAZON'S WI-FI? 4. You do realize that you don't have to buy a product on the spot, you can go home, compare prices, look for the products on your own internet connection, call a friend etc? And finally: you do realize that a Amazon is not an ISP?

7. Bozzor

Posts: 248; Member since: May 02, 2012

It's only via WiFi, and just because they patented it does not mean they will run with it.

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