Amazon faces antitrust investigation of the EU on the use of commercial data

On Wednesday, Amazon became the subject of an antitrust investigation by the European Union on its use of trade data, underlining an increasing regulatory review of how technology companies use customer information.

US technology giants, Google and Facebook, have been at the center of regulatory attention since antitrust implementers examine how they use data to boost their market power.

Some American politicians and even one of Facebook’s co-founders have called for them to be partitioned.

The European Commission has sought feedback from retailers and manufacturers since September in the dual role of Amazon as a market for dealers and acting as a competitor after traders’ complaints about Amazon’s practices.

The commission said its investigation will focus on Amazon’s standard dealers with market vendors and its use of data in the selection of winners of the purchase box, which allows consumers to add items from a specific retailer directly to their carts.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who can bring excellent companies up to 10% of their global turnover, said the issue was crucial as more and more Europeans buy online.

She said that “E-commerce has boosted retail competition and has brought more choices and better prices. We must ensure that large online platforms do not eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behaviors.”

Amazon said it would cooperate fully with the EU investigation. The company reached an agreement with Germany’s antitrust authority on Wednesday to improve its service terms for third-party traders.

Under its terms of service to Europe, defined on its website, merchants give Amazon royalty-free rights to use in a variety of ways of their materials, such as technology, trademarks, content and product information.

The EU investigation has some parallels with the investigation by the Google Commission of giving unlawful advantage to search results in its shopping comparison service, said Ian Giles, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.

He said, “There has been concern around the world that competition authorities have failed to appreciate the market power that comes from data ownership.”

In the Amazon case, he said the Commission should show that “standard dealers with dealers were anti-competitive in some way that allowed Amazon to use data to manipulate market outcomes or that Amazon mistreated its dominance” .

Politician announced last week that the EU will launch an investigation.

Sources said the Commission had been struggling to determine the Amazon market in which it operates, in order to identify where competitive damage might have been.

They said the matter was whether we should look at Amazon in the general retail market or in its own chamber.

This would not be Amazon’s first line with the Commission. Two years ago, they were told to pay 250m euros in Luxembourg taxes due to illicit tax benefits. That same year he agreed with the regulator on its distribution agreements with book publishers in Europe./

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