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

Posted: , by Alan F.

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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

43 Comments
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posted on 17 Jun 2017, 21:42 19

1. Flash (Posts: 1423; Member since: 19 May 2017)


And here we go. Amazon is becoming too greedy.

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 20:23 2

35. PrYmCHGOan (banned) (Posts: 335; Member since: 28 Sep 2016)


Yet you know who....isnt?

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 22:06 2

2. AJtheAndroid (Posts: 42; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


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

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 22:13 2

3. DrakenFX (Posts: 11; Member since: 05 Feb 2016)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 22:27

38. combatmedic870 (Posts: 931; Member since: 02 Sep 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.

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 22:15 12

4. PrYmCHGOan (banned) (Posts: 335; Member since: 28 Sep 2016)


This would never fly in Europe. Onlt in Murica!

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 01:57 2

12. hatersgonnahate (Posts: 5; Member since: 24 Jan 2015)


Land of freedom f*ck yeah

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 20:23

36. PrYmCHGOan (banned) (Posts: 335; Member since: 28 Sep 2016)


And the brave!

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 22:23 3

5. Greenmule (Posts: 57; Member since: 24 Apr 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%

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 22:36 9

6. Podrick (Posts: 1142; Member since: 19 Aug 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.

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 23:42 2

9. ibend (Posts: 6675; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 02:12 1

13. Podrick (Posts: 1142; Member since: 19 Aug 2015)


@ibend, That might be right. Good thinking!

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 11:40 2

31. lyndon420 (Posts: 5000; Member since: 11 Jul 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.

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 00:33 1

10. Leo_MC (Posts: 2677; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 02:14 6

14. Podrick (Posts: 1142; Member since: 19 Aug 2015)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 05:58 1

16. Leo_MC (Posts: 2677; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 07:01 2

18. btbotimtim (Posts: 257; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 07:53

19. Leo_MC (Posts: 2677; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 08:09 3

22. tedkord (Posts: 14114; Member since: 17 Jun 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.

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 22:30

39. combatmedic870 (Posts: 931; Member since: 02 Sep 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.

posted on 19 Jun 2017, 09:39

43. tedkord (Posts: 14114; Member since: 17 Jun 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.

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 23:30

41. Leo_MC (Posts: 2677; Member since: 02 Dec 2011)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 09:40

29. Podrick (Posts: 1142; Member since: 19 Aug 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.

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 23:36

42. Leo_MC (Posts: 2677; Member since: 02 Dec 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?

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 07:58

20. Greenmule (Posts: 57; Member since: 24 Apr 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.

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 08:31

23. tedkord (Posts: 14114; Member since: 17 Jun 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?

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 08:57

27. Greenmule (Posts: 57; Member since: 24 Apr 2017)


see post #26

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 10:15

30. tedkord (Posts: 14114; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


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

posted on 18 Jun 2017, 23:26

40. Leo_MC (Posts: 2677; Member since: 02 Dec 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?

posted on 17 Jun 2017, 22:50 2

7. Bozzor (Posts: 189; Member since: 02 May 2012)


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

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