Does Amazon Really Have Antitrust Issues, Per Trump's Latest Rant? No, Analysts Say

Look out Jeff Bezos -- Donald Trump is coming for you. But should Amazon (AMZN) and its investors be worried?

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee slammed Amazon founder and CEO Bezos in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity Thursday, accusing him of using The Washington Post, which he bought in 2013, as a tool to influence tax policy and implying the company engages in illegal monopolistic practices.

"Every hour we're getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions," he said. "And I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos...Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He's using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed."

Trump said he believes Bezos is worried that as president he will utilize antitrust laws to come after Amazon.

"Because he's got a huge antitrust problem because Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing. He's using The Washington Post, which is peanuts, he's using that for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes and in terms of antitrust," he said.

The GOP candidate's comments come in response to revelations from Post associate editor Bob Woodward Wednesday that the publication has assigned 20 staffers to dig into Trump's life and is also planning on a book.

"There's a lot we don't know," he told the National Association of Realtors convention in Washington. "We have 20 people working on Trump, we're going to do a book, we're doing articles about every phase of his life."

Trump's aggressive and visceral offensive also came just hours before the Post published a story alleging he masqueraded as his own publicist -- a fictional character named John Miller -- in a 1991 interview. 

Shareholders should keep calm, however, even if Trump does capture the White House, analysts say.

"I assume he is highlighting its low prices and dominant market share," said Kerry Rice, analyst at Needham & Co., in an email. "I will say that Amazon operates in a highly competitive, free market. I am not sure there are any anti-competitive issues."

Further, Amazon has been accused of monopolistic practices in the past and has sloughed off those allegations.

Last year, groups representing authors, agents and independent booksellers asked the Department of Justice to examine the company for antitrust violations. And Bezos' aggressive business practices raised eyebrows when the 2013 book "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon" recounted Amazon's takeover of Quidsi, the startup behind Diapers.com. When the company's founders refused Amazon's initial acquisition proposal in 2009, it retaliated with tracking bots to monitor Diaper.com's prices on diapers and other products and dramatically lowered its prices. Bezos eventually got his way and acquired Quidsi in 2010.

Amazon is becoming an increasingly important player in retail and growing fast, said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. However, it has not exactly reached monopolistic proportions. "It's a major retailer, but it is still much smaller than other players, like a Walmart or a Costco," he said.

"It's much more than just Amazon selling, it's another place for other people for sell their goods," he added -- including Trump himself, who sells products from his menswear line on the Amazon platform.

But Trump's recent comments about Amazon and Bezos, while alarming, don't exactly provide clarity in terms of which of Amazon's practices he sees as problematic. 

On the tax front, he may have been referring to online sales taxes -- currently, taxes are collected on a state-by-state basis -- and implying that Amazon does not collect taxes in some states. However, Hottovy pointed out that Amazon is "already collecting that tax in a majority of states." It is also pushing toward a national online sales tax standard.

And in his antitrust stance, he might be referring to the sheer size of Amazon, but that would be more problematic in Europe -- where regulators consider a company's size as a negative in evaluating antitrust issues -- than it would in the United States. Here, American companies are allowed to grow, as long as they achieve their position legitimately. It's unlikely Trump was basing his critique on European antitrust theory, said Tom Campbell, professor of economics and law at Chapman University and former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition.

"I doubt very much that Donald Trump was thinking of that," he said.

Trump has made similar allegations about the Post, Amazon and tax policy in the past, though he has never really gotten into specifics. He tweeted about the issue in December.

The @washingtonpost, which loses a fortune, is owned by @JeffBezos for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no profit company, @amazon.

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2015

And in a February speech in Texas, Trump leveled more criticism and seemingly threatened negative implications for Amazon should win in November. 

"I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence, and I gotta tell you, we have a different country than we used to have," Trump said. "He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That's not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They're going to have such problems."

Amazon has been upping its lobbying efforts as of late. The Post reported in February that the company nearly doubled its lobbying expenditures in 2015, spending $9.4 million to influence Washington decision-makers on issues like online sales taxes, drones, computer cloud services, cyber security and welfare benefits. 

To be sure, it's not just Trump who doesn't like Bezos -- the feeling appears to be mutual. He responded to Trump's December attack with a tweet of his own -- his fourth ever -- mocking the real estate magnate.

Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace https://t.co/9OypFoxZk3

— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 7, 2015

Despite their distaste for one another, Bezos and Trump do have a business relationship, as Amazon sells some of Trump's products. However, that may change. Bezos is facing pressure from a petition organized by online advocacy group UltraViolet Action and signed by shoppers and investors to end the sale of Trump's menswear line and other products on its marketplace.

Representatives for Amazon and the Trump campaign have not yet responded to request for comment. 

Amazon stock, which has been on a tear lately, reaching all-time highs in May, is down nearly half a percent in trading today. 

This post will be updated as more information comes in.