Amazon is the most successful online retailer around. The retail giant has an estimated 80 million Prime members, just in the U.S. alone.
The company has started making its way into the brick-and-mortar shopping world. We told you last week that Amazon is paying nearly $14 billion to acquire the supermarket chain Whole Foods. Now, Amazon might be trying to make it harder for shoppers to compare prices.
How Amazon could make price comparisons more difficult
What we're talking about is a patent that Amazon was recently granted. It's titled, "Physical store online shopping control."
The patent would allow a retail location to block shoppers who connect to its Wi-Fi network from looking up competitor prices online. This means if you're at an Amazon brick-and-mortar location, you can't look up items at, for example, Walmart, to see if those items are less expensive there.
The patent states, "During an evaluation of requested content, a determination may be made as to whether the requested content is associated with or potentially associated with a competitor of the retailer, an item offered for consumption by the retailer, or other information of interest to the retailer.
"In the event that requested content is determined to be associated with or potentially associated with the competitor or an item of interest, one or more control actions may be directed on behalf of the retailer.
"A wide variety of different types of control actions may be directed as desired in various embodiments. For example, access to competitor information may be blocked. As another example, the consumer device may be redirected to other content, such as a retailer website."
Keep in mind, an approved patent doesn't necessarily mean that it is going to be implemented. Amazon may have requested it just to keep other retailers from implementing this type of procedure. Since many shoppers already look at Amazon.com to compare prices while shopping at a brick-and-mortar retailer, this makes total sense.
There is also a very simple solution if this patent is implemented. Just don't connect to the free Wi-Fi at retail locations. This will keep them from blocking your online movements and also keep you safe from hackers stealing data from your gadget. It's a win-win.