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Amazon ‘destroyed the retail industry across the US’ says Treasury Secretary Mnuchin

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Amazon “destroyed the retail industry across the United States” and that it’s appropriate for the attorney general to investigate the company alongside other tech giants in the sweeping antitrust review that the Justice Department announced yesterday. “There’s no question they’ve limited competition,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Mnuchin said that “although there’s certain benefits” to Amazon’s success, the company has “really hurt small businesses” in the process. “I think it’s absolutely right that the attorney general is looking into these issues,” he said this morning.

The Justice Department said yesterday that it would begin a review into whether major online platforms have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.” While Amazon was not mentioned by name, the assumption is that the DOJ will be looking at it alongside other tech giants, like Facebook and Google, that also vastly dominate their fields.

Amazon responded to Mnuchin’s remarks with a comment saying that its platform helps small businesses and that physical stores still dominate retail sales. “Small and medium-sized businesses are thriving with Amazon,” a spokesperson said. They said that Amazon represents “less than 4 percent of US retail,” and that 90 percent of retail sales “still occur in brick-and-mortar stores according to the US Census Bureau.”

Mnuchin’s feelings on Amazon won’t make a difference as far as the review is concerned — the Treasury Department isn’t involved — but his comments speak to the way public opinion has quickly changed on tech giants’ dominance, as well as the way that opinion has taken hold in the Trump administration. President Trump has long taken issue with Amazon and its CEO. Last year, speaking to the dominance of Amazon, Facebook, and Google, he said that “many people think it is a very antitrust situation.”

Update July 24th, 11:25AM ET: This story has been updated to include comment from Amazon.