Seller faces $1m fine and jail term for fixing prices on Amazon Marketplace

A man accused of conspiring with other poster sellers to manipulate prices on ‘Amazon Marketplace' has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to illegally fix the prices of posters he sold online, in what will be the first prosecution specifically targeting Internet commerce by the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division. From September 2013 to January 2014 David Topkins allegedly conspired with other poster sellers to use algorithms, for which he wrote computer code, to coordinate price changes on the website, and then shared information about poster prices and sales.

We will not tolerate anticompetitive conduct, whether it occurs in a smoke-filled room or over the Internet using complex pricing algorithms.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s antitrust unit

Amazon Marketplace competes with eBay in letting merchants sell goods online. It is separate from Amazon’s business where the Seattle-based company sells books, electronics and other goods online. Amazon was not charged in the case against Topkins. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The charge against Topkins carries a maximum 10-year prison term and $1 million fine, the Justice Department said. It added that Topkins also agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and cooperate with its probe.

Consumers have the right to a free and fair marketplace online, as well as in brick and mortar businesses.

Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer