Could Whole Foods ban customers from checking competitor’s prices on their phone? Amazon patents method to limit wifi browsing in stores

Daily Mail

Just days ago, Amazon revealed it is buying the Whole Foods grocery chain in a staggering $13.7 billion all-cash deal.

Now, a patent recently awarded to the firm offers a look at how Amazon plans to stamp out its competition.

The patent details a system that could prevent customers using a store’s WiFi from visiting rival websites by blocking access or even redirecting them to ‘counter-competitive information,’ such as a relevant coupon or price comparison.  

Once customers connect to the store¿s WiFi, the system can evaluate the requested content, the patent explains. If it spots something associated with a competitor, a number of ¿control actions¿ could be issued

Amazon was awarded the patent, titled Physical Store Online Shopping Control, on May 30, according to the Washington Post.

And, it aims to prevent customers from engaging in ‘mobile window shopping’ while they browse one of Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores.

Once customers connect to the store’s WiFi, the system can evaluate the requested content, the patent explains.

If it spots something associated with a competitor, a number of ‘control actions’ could be issued.

‘A wide variety of different types of control actions may be directed as desired in various embodiments,’ the patent explains.

‘For example, access to competitor (or other requested) information may be blocked.

‘As another example, the consumer device (or an associated browser or other application) may be redirected to other content, such as a retailer Web site.

‘In certain embodiments, a desired item may be identified and counter-competitive information (e.g., price comparison information, a coupon, an offer to match a competitor price, information associated with complementary products, etc) may be provided to the consumer device.’

According to the patent, the system could even alert a sales representative, who can then approach and assist that customer.

Or, the customer could be sent a text message or email.

The patent comes to light amid Amazon’s recent ventures into brick-and-mortar retail.

Just last week, the firm revealed its bid for the Whole Foods chain, in a deal that’s expected to close in the second half of this year.

With the acquisition, Amazon will expand its grocery-delivery services to the 465 Whole Foods locations across North America and the UK.

And, earlier this year, the firm unveiled a physical convenience store in downtown Seattle – but it replaces cashiers with the technology found in self-driving cars.

Called ‘Amazon Go’, customers enter the store using an accompanied app, grab the items they need, and are able to walk out without stopping at a register.

The app uses a range of sensors that detect what shoppers take off shelves and bills it to their Amazon account if they don’t put it back.

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