April 24, 2018 / 7:36 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Amazon boss Bezos supports scrutiny of big companies

(Adds quotes, details)

By Emma Thomasson

BERLIN, April 24 (Reuters) - Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said on Tuesday that it was right that big companies are scrutinised and said his firm would respond to any new regulations by finding new ways to please its customers.

Bezos was speaking in Berlin, where he received an award from German media company Axel Springer, and was responding to a question about how seriously he took recent criticism of Amazon by U.S. President Donald Trump.

"All large institutions should be scrutinised or examined," Bezos said. "It is not personal."

"We have a duty on behalf of society to help educate any regulators without cynicism or scepticism. We will work with any set of regulations that we are given... we will follow those rules and find a new way to delight customers."

Trump has said he would take a serious look at policies to address what he says are the unfair business advantages of Amazon, accusing the firm of not operating on a level playing field and not paying enough sales tax.

"We humans, especially in the western world, especially inside democracies, are wired to be mindful of big institutions... it doesn't mean you don't trust them or they are evil or bad," Bezos said.

Amazon has also come in for criticism elsewhere over its tax policies and treatment of warehouse staff, with hundreds of European workers protesting on Tuesday outside the building where Bezos was speaking over pay and conditions.

"I'm very proud of our working conditions and I'm very proud of the wages we pay," Bezos said. "We don't believe we need a union to be an intermediary between ourselves and our workers."

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Bezos also defended his ownership of the Washington Post, which Trump has called the “chief lobbyist” for Amazon. The Washington Post is privately owned by Bezos, not Amazon.

Bezos said the need to scrutinise large organisations was one of the reasons why the Post's work was so important, adding he had no problem with the newspaper pursuing critical reporting about Amazon and said he would never meddle in the newsroom.

"I would be humiliated to interfere. I would turn bright red. I don't want to. It would feel icky, It would feel gross. Why would I? I want that paper to be independent," he said.

Bezos, the world's richest person with a fortune of more than $100 billion, added that he was not interested in buying other newspapers, despite receiving monthly requests to bail out other struggling media organisations.

He said he would keep liquidating about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, saying he hoped to test a tourism vehicle with humans at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

Asked about the scandal over the alleged misuse of the data of nearly 100 million Facebook users, Bezos said Amazon had worked hard on security: "If you mistreat your data, they will know, they will work it out. Customers are very smart." (Reporting by Emma Thomasson Editing by Alexander Smith)

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