The European Commission (EC) announced a second formal investigation into online retailer Amazon on Tuesday, accusing the firm of breaching European antitrust rules by using independent sellers’ data for its own benefit.
The EC said that Amazon was using the data of third-party sellers, such as order numbers, revenues and numbers of visitors, to inform its strategic business decisions, like reducing the price of products.
The e-commerce giant plays a dual role – both selling products itself, and acting as a platform for independent (and sometimes rival) sellers.
“Data on the activity of third-party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers,” said EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager.
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Amazon disagreed with the Commission’s assertions, saying it “will continue to make every effort to ensure it has an accurate understanding of the facts.” It also said that represents less than one percent of the global retail market.
“No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon,” it said.
In July 2019, the EC, the executive arm of the European Union, launched a probe into Amazon due to concerns over anti-competitive behavior.
This time, the antitrust investigation will look at how the company chooses which sellers offer products via Amazon Prime, its paid-for premium service. It will investigate the possible preferential treatment of Amazon’s own retail business and those that use its logistics and delivery services (known as “fulfilment by Amazon” sellers) over other sellers.
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The EC will also look into Amazon’s “buy box” function, which offers customers a one-click button to add a product to their shopping cart. US regulators and third-party sellers have previously questioned Amazon over which products get placed in the all-important buy box. Vestager said that, while going through 80 million transactions and 100 million products listed on Amazon marketplace, “it became increasingly clear that there might something that we should look into further on the buy box.”
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