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Amazon patents blocking price comparisons in its stores

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Amazon dominates online shopping and is now look offline for further expansion, with Amazon stores slowly starting to pop up in the real world. But don't expect everything to be the same inside these stores, including your ability to compare prices.

Squawker brought our attention to a new patent granted to Amazon carrying the rather sinister title of "Physical Store Online Shopping Control." It's certainly not a very friendly sounding patent, and reading the contents confirms it isn't.

Retailers are well-aware that when shopping in their physical stores many consumers pull out their phone and start comparing prices. If a product is cheaper elsewhere, chances are the store they are standing in loses a sale. Amazon doesn't want that to happen in its own stores, so it's making sure it can't and this patent explains how.

Smartphones are typically setup to use the best signal they can find in an area, which includes freely-accessible WiFi. Amazon knows this and will happily offer you free WiFi access when walking around its physical stores. But when accessing their WiFi, Amazon intends to monitor what you are doing. If its monitoring system detects you are attempting to compare prices it will take action.

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Action, according to the patent, can take many forms. Your comparison may be blocked, redirected to an Amazon-friendly page, or you could get offered a complementary item to entice you back towards buying from Amazon. While you're waiting for the results to load you could also be approached by an Amazon sales representative who has been informed of your actions. I suspect they will be friendly and won't mention that they know what you were doing.

Of course, you can bypass all this nonsense by simply opting not to use Amazon's free WiFi while in their stores. And if you feel even the slightest tinge of guilt standing in an Amazon store comparing prices, just remember Amazon offers that handy barcode scanner in its app for comparing prices when out shopping!

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.