Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy for US Consumers


Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

Amazon said Tuesday it was launching an online pharmacy for US consumers, who will be able to order prescription medications directly from the e-commerce giant’s website or mobile app.

The move comes two years after Amazon acquired PillPack, an internet pharmacy offering pre-sorted dose packaging and home delivery.

“We designed Amazon Pharmacy to put customers first — bringing Amazon’s customer obsession to an industry that can be inconvenient and confusing,” said TJ Parker, vice president of the new unit.

“We work hard behind the scenes to handle complications seamlessly so anyone who needs a prescription can understand their options, place their order for the lowest available price, and have their medication delivered quickly.”

Amazon has long been rumored to be interested in the pharmacy business, and the entry by a powerful new player could unsettle a business dominated by large American chains including CVS and Walgreens

An Amazon statement said PillPack would continue to operate as a distinct unit within Amazon Pharmacy for customers using the service.

The tech and retail giant said it would comply with US health privacy laws and not offer certain controlled medications such as opioids.

The online pharmacy would allow customers to use their insurance or pay out of pocket, with discounts offered for Amazon Prime members.

The move comes with increasing scrutiny of Amazon and other tech giants over their growing dominance in key sectors of the economy.

In pre-market trade, rival pharmacy operators saw their shares stumble with Rite-Aid down 11.7 percent, CVS losing 7.1 percent and Walgreens 9 percent..

Amazon earlier this year launched an online pharmacy for consumers in India for both prescription and over-the-counter medications.

-AFP

Amazon Unveils Payment By Hand-Waving

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York.  Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled a new biometric payment system using palm recognition, to be made available to rival retailers and also promoted as a replacement for badge entry at stadiums or workplaces.

The system called Amazon One was touted as “a fast, convenient, contactless way for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or badging into work more effortless.”

The US technology giant said it would be installing the system at its Amazon Go retail locations, starting with two stores in its hometown of Seattle, Washington.

READ ALSO: India’s Richest Man Takes On Amazon, Walmart In E-Commerce Gamble

Amazon vice president Dilip Kumar said the system was developed as “a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

Amazon One uses each individual’s “unique palm signature,” an alternative to other biometric identifiers such as fingerprint, iris or facial recognition.

“No two palms are alike, so we analyze all these aspects with our vision technology and select the most distinct identifiers on your palm to create your palm signature,” Kumar said in a blog post.

In Amazon Go stores, the palm-waving system will be added to the store’s entry gate as an option for shoppers.

“In most retail environments, Amazon One could become an alternate payment or loyalty card option with a device at the checkout counter next to a traditional point of sale system,” Kumar added.

The company said it was “in active discussions with several potential customers,” which could include other retailers, but offered no details.

Biometric blues

The announcement comes amid rapid growth in the use of biometric payments ranging from fingerprint verification on smartphones to more sophisticated systems using facial recognition.

China’s Alipay — the financial arm of ecommerce giant Alibaba — has been using a “Smile-to-Pay” system, with a machine roughly the size of an iPad, for retailers.

The shift has also raised privacy concerns about how biometric data will be safeguarded and protected from hackers.

Amazon workers arrive at the company's centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP
Amazon workers arrive at the company’s centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP

 

Amazon said the biometric data would be “protected by multiple security controls and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device” but send to a “highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud.”

Doug Stephens of the consulting firm Retail Prophet, said Amazon would need to protect the data to gain user trust in the system to make it mainstream.

“Biometrics as a form of ID/payment etc. has always made ultimate sense,” Stephens said on Twitter. “The question is, will Amazon mainstream our comfort with them or violate our trust?”

 

AFP

Amazon Bans Sales Of Foreign Seeds In US After Mystery Packets

 

 

Amazon has banned sales of imported seeds in the United States after thousands of Americans said they had received packets of seeds they had not ordered, mostly from China.

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement Saturday.

In late July the Department of Agriculture reported that packages of seeds had been sent to Americans and warned not to plant them, in case they posed a danger to US agriculture.

Examination of the mystery packages revealed at least 14 different kinds of seeds, including mint, mustard, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus and roses.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement on August 12.

AFP

US Congressional Antitrust Hearing With Big Tech Ceos Postponed

The hearing is titled “Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.”

 

 

A highly anticipated antitrust hearing including top executives of four Big Tech firms, originally set for Monday, has been postponed.

A notice filed by the House Judiciary Committee set no new date for the hearing titled “Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.”

The hearing would have conflicted with the memorial service for the late representative and civil rights leader John Lewis, to lie in state in the US Capitol.

-AFP

India’s Richest Man Takes On Amazon, Walmart In E-Commerce Gamble

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York. 
Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

 

Backed by multi-billion-dollar investments from global tech giants, India’s richest man is ready to rumble with Amazon and Walmart for the country’s huge e-commerce market through his conglomerate Reliance.

But it is far from certain that Mukesh Ambani’s latest gamble will pay off in a crowded market where many suppliers are not well-versed in digital business.

The mogul has long trumpeted his ambition to revolutionise retail in the country of 1.3 billion by convincing farmers and shopkeepers to sell their goods on his new JioMart platform launched this year.

But modernising India’s creaky, inefficient supply chains will not be easy, even for Reliance, the nation’s largest retailer by revenue with a portfolio including supermarkets, electronics stores and fast-fashion outlets.

Google on Wednesday became the latest Silicon Valley player to invest in the digital unit of the Indian oil-to-telecoms juggernaut, following in the footsteps of Facebook and Intel.

 

With global tech giants pumping billions into Reliance, India’s richest man is ready to battle Amazon and Walmart for the country’s huge e-commerce market. But analysts say it’s far from certain that Mukesh Ambani’s latest big gamble will pay off. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) /

 

These votes of confidence notwithstanding, Ambani’s success will depend on India’s mom-and-pop stores and their ability to adapt to the demands of an online business, analysts say.

Keeping bargain-hungry consumers satisfied in a fiercely contested market may be even harder.

Early signs have not been promising for JioMart since its roll-out in 200 Indian cities in May.

Customers have complained about everything from rotting vegetables to missing deliveries and delayed refunds.

An avid online shopper who buys electronics from Amazon and clothing from Walmart-owned retailer Myntra, Mehul Shah is the kind of customer much sought after by Ambani and his rivals.

The 22-year-old placed his first JioMart order soon after the platform’s hotly-anticipated launch.

“I wanted to experience what it was like… because there was so much hype around it,” he told AFP.

But fewer than half his items were delivered and mint leaves he ordered arrived rotten, forcing Shah to throw them away.

Money, money, money

Shah’s experience underlines the challenges facing Ambani as he attempts to take on Amazon, BigBasket and Grofers, all of which have established supply and delivery networks in India.

The 63-year-old tycoon will likely deploy the same strategy he used to make his Jio mobile service a market leader following its 2016 launch.

Jio’s cut-price discounts put phones in the hands of millions of first-time buyers in India, clobbering the competition and driving rivals out of the race.

In recent months Ambani has raised more than $22 billion in a rights issue and through selling stakes in Reliance to foreign investors.

The conglomerate is now net-debt-free and has cash to burn, analysts say.

“JioMart will use the money by offering deep discounting to get consumers, and is in it for the long haul,” said independent analyst Minakshi Ghosh.

But the firm will also need to pump funds into training local shopkeepers in online trading. Many say their businesses have been badly hit by the rise of supermarkets and e-commerce.

“Even in my dreams I never imagined running such a modern business… or receiving card payments,” said Kavita Chowdhury, a shopkeeper in Navi Mumbai, a city neighbouring India’s financial capital.

Her partnership with JioMart could not have come at a better time for the 30-year-old, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing her to shutter the bricks-and-mortar store.

She can now sell online instead and business is booming, she told AFP.

 

India’s richest man takes on Amazon, Walmart in e-commerce gamble.

 

‘Teething issues’

A Reliance source told AFP JioMart had received an “amazing” response from consumers.

“People in small towns are buying Del Monte olives and focaccia bread… They are aware of global trends and want more options,” he said.

But he acknowledged the company faced “teething issues” in logistics — problems which analysts believe could prove its Achilles heel.

“You need consistent delivery models and customer satisfaction” to run a successful e-commerce operation, Forrester Research senior forecast analyst Satish Meena told AFP.

Reliance will not “have a walkover just because of their financial strength”, he said.

Some customers have already sworn off the platform.

Vamshi Krishna, 28, told AFP he would never again buy anything from JioMart after his first two orders went missing.

“Despite problems with my first order, I decided to give them a second chance… because it is an Ambani company,” he said.

“Now I seriously doubt whether I will ever get my money back.”

 

 

-AFP

Amazon Offers Permanent Jobs To 125K COVID-19 Temporary Hires

Amazon workers arrive at the company's centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP
Amazon workers arrive at the company’s centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP

 

Amazon on Thursday said it is offering permanent jobs to 125,000 of the temporary workers hired to handle surging use of its online shopping service due to the pandemic.

Amazon expanded its workforce with 175,000 new positions in March as restrictions on movements shuttered real-world shops and had people staying home to avoid the virus.

“Like other companies, we hired these individuals for seasonal roles to meet a surge in demand and, for many, there was the hope of returning back to their previous companies once states began to reopen,” Amazon said in a blog post.

“As the long-term picture becomes more clear, we’re providing the opportunity for 125,000 of those who came on with us seasonally to stay with Amazon and transition into a regular, full-time role beginning in June.”

The move comes as Amazon’s role in delivering goods for consumers facing lockdowns and restrictions around the world, through its e-commerce platform as well as its grocery operations, grows.

But the company has also faced protests from warehouse workers and activists who claim Amazon has failed to do enough to keep them safe.

Amazon’s move came on a day when the US government said an additional 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, bringing the total to more than 40 million since March.

The announcement came a day after Amazon shareholders turned back a series of proposals put forth by critics at the company’s annual meeting aimed at creating new social responsibility goals for the tech giant.

Amazon noted that it was among the first large employers to offer a minimum US wage of $15 an hour, well above the federal requirement, along with other benefits.

Amazon Wins Suit Suspending $10bn Microsoft US Military Contract

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC, May 9, 2019. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the US military from awarding a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract to Microsoft, after Amazon claimed the process was tainted by politics.

A preliminary injunction requested by Amazon was issued by Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith, barring the Department of Defense from starting work on the contract known as JEDI, according to a summary of the ruling available online.

Details of the ruling were sealed for unspecified reasons.

Amazon has alleged it was shut out of the deal because of President Donald Trump’s vendetta against the company and is seeking testimony from the president and other top officials on the reasons for awarding the $10 billion US military cloud computing contract.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI)  program will ultimately see all military branches sharing information in a cloud-based system boosted by artificial intelligence.

An earlier court filing by Amazon detailed alleged errors that ended with Microsoft being chosen over its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division, part of the technology group led by Jeff Bezos — a frequent target of the president.

 Microsoft confident 

Microsoft said it hoped to prevail after the merits of the case are heard in court.

“We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft,” Microsoft vice president of communications Frank Shaw said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with AWS dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government agencies including the CIA.

The Pentagon’s mistakes in the contract were “hard to understand and impossible to assess” when separated from Trump’s “repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon,'” court documents filed by Amazon argued.

Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, is a frequent target of the US president, who claims the newspaper is biased against him.

The bid protest filed in US Court of Federal Claims urges that the rival JEDI bids be re-evaluated and a new decision reached.

As a condition of the injunction, Amazon was directed to provide $42 million that would be used to cover any costs or damages incurred if it is determined that the injunction was issued wrongly.

AFP

Deforestation In Brazil’s Amazon Up 85 Percent In 2019

 

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil soared 85 per cent in 2019, compared with the previous year, official data showed Tuesday.

The 9,166 square kilometers (3,539 square miles) cleared was the highest number in at least five years, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

In 2018, the deforested area was 4,946 square kilometers.

The sharp increase overlapped the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who has eased restrictions on exploiting the Amazon’s vast riches.

The data was collected by the satellite-based DETER system, which monitors deforestation in real-time.

It comes after fires ravaged swaths of the Amazon basin last year, igniting a global outcry and diplomatic feud between Bolsonaro and European leaders.

The number of fires in the rainforest rose 30 per cent to 89,178 in 2019, compared with the previous year, the latest official data show.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Bolsonaro to reverse his environmental policy, which the campaign group says has accelerated land clearing and encouraged attacks on forest defenders.

In recent months, three indigenous people have been killed in two separate incidents in the northeastern state of Maranhao.

One of them died after being ambushed by loggers. The others were killed in a drive-by shooting.

Amazon Faces UK Probe Over Deliveroo Deal

An employee carries a package at the distribution center of US online retail giant Amazon in Moenchengladbach, on December 17, 2019. INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

Britain’s competition regulator on Friday launched an in-depth investigation into Amazon’s bid to buy part of online takeaway delivery group Deliveroo.

The Competition and Markets Authority said the so-called phase two probe comes after the pair failed to address initial “serious” concerns expressed by the CMA.

Announcing its plan for an investigation lasting up to six months, the CMA said it believes the tie-up could result in a “substantial lessening of competition” in the UK online grocery delivery sector in which Amazon and Deliveroo are market leaders.

UK-based Deliveroo in May announced that Amazon was the largest investor in a $575-million funding round.

A Deliveroo spokeswoman on Friday said the company was confident of persuading the CMA that Amazon’s “minority investment will add to competition, helping restaurants to grow their businesses, creating more work for riders, and increasing choice for customers”.

Created in 2013, Deliveroo has grown to delivering meals to clients in more than 200 cities across 12 countries.

 

AFP

Amazon Accuses Trump Of Interfering With $10bn JEDI Contract

Amazon is alleging that US President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to deny the company a massive military cloud computing contract, court documents released on December 9, 2019 showed.  GABRIEL BOUYS, Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

 

The lawsuit filed by Amazon challenging a $10 billion US military cloud computing contract awarded to Microsoft will not delay implementation of the project, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Amazon has alleged that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to deny the company the massive contract in late October.

“We will deal with Amazon’s legal actions. I cannot comment on those right now,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord.

“But I will tell you we are moving right now forward with the JEDI contract.”

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, better known as JEDI, ultimately will see all military branches sharing information in a system boosted by artificial intelligence.

“We actually have a kick-off event with Microsoft tomorrow [Wednesday] morning,” Lord said.

A heavily redacted court filing by Amazon detailed alleged errors that ended with Microsoft being chosen over its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division, part of the technology group led by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.

Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, is a frequent target of the US president.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with AWS dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government outfits including the CIA.

In court documents released Monday, Amazon alleged “improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump, who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy — Jeffrey P. Bezos.”

The Pentagon’s mistakes in the contract were “hard to understand and impossible to assess” when separated from Trump’s “repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon.'”

The bid protest filed in US Court of Federal Claims urges that the rival JEDI bids be re-evaluated and a new decision reached.

AFP

Amazon Acquire Champions League Broadcast Rights In Germany

 

Amazon confirmed Tuesday that they have acquired the rights to broadcast a selection of Champions League games in Germany from the 2021-22 season, as the company continues its offensive into the football TV rights market.

The company has secured a package which includes the top picks of the Tuesday night games in Europe’s biggest club competition, German media magazine DWDL.de revealed.

In a statement on Tuesday, Amazon confirmed that they had secured the rights for their streaming platform Prime Video.

“We are excited to bring UEFA Champions League to our customers in Germany,” said Alex Green, executive director of Prime Video Sport Europa.

The announcement comes just days after Amazon UK debuted their live coverage of the English Premier League.

The coverage was the first time Premier League games had been broadcast exclusively online in the UK, and was met with mixed reactions from viewers.

German football fans are more accustomed to watching football online, however.

Broadcasting rights for both the Champions League and the Bundesliga are currently shared between traditional broadcaster Sky Sports and London-based streaming service DAZN.

Germany is the biggest market outside the USA for Amazon, who entered the sports streaming market in 2017 and have since broadcast major events in both football and tennis.

AFP

Pentagon Snubs Amazon For $10bn ‘Jedi’ Contract

The Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

The Pentagon said Friday it is awarding a $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft, following a highly scrutinized bidding process which Amazon had been favored to win.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, better known as JEDI, ultimately will see all military branches sharing information in a system boosted by artificial intelligence.

“The National Defense Strategy dictates that we must improve the speed and effectiveness with which we develop and deploy modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform,” Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said in a release.

“This award is an important step in execution of the Digital Modernization Strategy.”

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with its Amazon Web Services dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government outfits including the CIA.

But the Pentagon earlier this year delayed  awarding the hefty contract, saying the process would be reviewed by newly appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Esper was selected by US President Donald Trump, who has lashed out at Amazon and company founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.

In July, Trump said he had heard “complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM” over the JEDI bidding process.

“We’re going to take a look at it. We’ll take a very strong look at it,” he said, raising concerns among observers that the process would be improperly influenced.

Amazon said late Friday it was “surprised about this conclusion.”

“AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion,” the company said in a statement.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Necessary evil? 

The contract has caused controversy over whether internet giants who say they want to make the world better should be involved in the defense industry.

JEDI critics have likened it to the nefarious “Skynet” computing overlord in “Terminator” films.

Microsoft was Amazon’s only rival in the final bidding for the winner-take-all contract, despite employees urging it to drop out.

“Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war,” company staffers wrote in an anonymous op-ed posted a year ago on Medium, which said it had verified the authenticity of the piece.

“The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building.”

Microsoft has defended its interest in military contracts, saying at one point, “All of us who live in this country depend on its strong defense.”

Amazon chief Bezos had also defended the company’s bid, saying it was important to support US defense efforts, even if it is unpopular.

 Cloud cash 

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives expected Amazon, and perhaps others, to challenge the Pentagon contract decision in court but still saw it giving a major lift to Microsoft’s cloud business in a market where $1 trillion is expected to be spent in the coming decade.

“This is a game changer deal for Microsoft to win as this will have a ripple effect for the company’s cloud business for years to come,” he said.

“While the current political landscape further complicated this high stakes bake-off with JEDI, both Microsoft and Amazon among others will have much to gain over the coming years in these cloud sweepstakes.”

Microsoft this week reported that quarterly profits rose 21 percent on the back of its thriving cloud computing business which has become a core focus for the US technology giant.

The tactic is a major switch from the way the Redmond-based company built its empire selling packaged software to computer users.

Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, has expanded from its origins in e-commerce to cloud services, streaming media, artificial intelligence and other ventures.

Amazon Web Services accounted for nearly $9 billion in revenue in the recently-ended quarter, with growth in the cloud computing unit up 35 percent from a year ago.

AFP