The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on Amazon’s marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “European consumers are increasingly shopping online. E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”
The Commission will look into:
- The standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers, which allow Amazon’s retail business to analyze and use third party seller data. In particular, the Commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.
- The role of the data in the selection of the winners of the “Buy Box” and the impact of Amazon’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection. The “Buy Box” is displayed prominently on Amazon and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the “Buy Box” seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it.
The Commission states that there is no legal deadline for bringing and antitrust investigation to an end, and that it has informed Amazon and the competition authorities of Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.
The Verge reported that the antitrust announcement happened on the same day that Amazon announced changes to its third-party seller service agreement in response to a separate antitrust investigation by German regulators.
It appears that we won’t know how the European Commission’s antitrust investigation will affect Amazon until the investigation ends. It is unclear how Amazon’s changes, made to appease German regulators, will affect the European Commission’s ruling.