E.U. Accuses Amazon of Breaking Competition Rules

PARIS – The European Commission on Tuesday accused Amazon of breaching European Union antitrust rules by distorting competition in online retail markets.

In a preliminary finding, the executive branch of the European Union said it took issue with Amazon “systematically” using data from independent sellers who trade on its marketplace to unfairly compete with sellers in France and Germany. The Commission opened the probe into Amazon’s use of seller data in July 2019.

The Commission also launched a second formal antitrust investigation into the possible preferential treatment of Amazon’s own retail offers and those of third-party sellers that use its logistics and delivery services. It will focus on the criteria used to select the winner of Amazon’s “Buy Box” feature and to enable sellers to offer products to users of its Prime loyalty program.

“We must ensure that dual-role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition,” said European commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”

The Commission said Amazon had access to extensive non-public business data of independent sellers including the number of items ordered and shipped, and how much they make on the platform. Those figures were then used to help Amazon calibrate its offers “to the detriment of the other marketplace sellers,” it alleged.

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“The Commission’s preliminary view, outlined in its Statement of Objections, is that the use of non-public marketplace seller data allows Amazon to avoid the normal risks of retail competition and to leverage its dominance in the market for the provision of marketplace services in France and Germany – the biggest markets for Amazon in the EU,” the Commission said.

Amazon disputed the Commission’s report.

“We disagree with the preliminary assertions of the European Commission and will continue to make every effort to ensure it has an accurate understanding of the facts. Amazon represents less than 1 percent of the global retail market, and there are larger retailers in every country in which we operate,” it said in a statement.

“No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon. There are more than 150,000 European businesses selling through our stores that generate tens of billions of euros in revenues annually and have created hundreds of thousands of jobs,” the retailer added.

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