The European Commission (EC) has launched an anti-trust investigation to assess whether the use of sensitive data by Amazon from independent retailers who sell on its marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules.
European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager 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 behaviour.
“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.”
It said that based on preliminary fact-finding, Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information such as marketplace sellers, their products and transactions.
The EC will look into the standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers, which allow the company’s retail business to analyse and use third-party seller data.
The commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.
It will also focus on the role of data in the selection of the winners of the ‘Buy Box’ and the impact of the company’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection.
The ‘Buy Box’ allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. Winning the ‘Buy Box’ is said to be crucial for marketplace sellers as most transactions are done through it.
The commission said that if proven, the practices under investigation could amount to breach of EU competition rules on anti-competitive agreements between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, also called TFEU) and/or on the abuse of a dominant position (Articles 102 TFEU).
The EC said that it will carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority.
The commission said that it has informed Amazon and the competition authorities of the EU member states about the opening of the proceedings.