Amazon has been hit with another antitrust ruling after European Union regulators decided that the e-commerce giant leveraged data access to distort completion. The charge, if upheld, could result in a fine of as much as 10% of Amazon’s annual worldwide revenue.
Because Amazon is both a marketplace and a retailer, it can harvest data from other sellers to inform its own business decisions – a luxury not available to other merchants. When EU investigators looked across Amazon’s product listings, they found real-time, granular business data on third-party products being fed into Amazon’s own retail algorithms.
“Many retailers invest heavily to identify products of interest and bring them to consumers, taking risks when they invest in new products or when choosing a specific price level,” explained Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission. “Amazon can avoid some of those risks by using the third-party seller data for such business decisions. In fact, although Amazon only lists a minor share of all products on the platform, it captures the lion’s share of the transactions in most product categories.”
In further bad news for Amazon, the EU announced that it was opening a second investigation into the firm, examining the criteria used to determine which seller gets chosen to be featured in the ‘buy box’ and whether this confers preferential treatment.
Amazon may well wonder whether European regulators are simply out to get US tech firms. Vestager has previously fined Google almost $10 billion and has launched two antitrust investigations against Apple already this year.
However, it seems unlikely that Amazon will be safe from the regulators on home soil for much longer, with antitrust probes into tech firms being launched in the US recently. Amazon has stated that it disagrees with the EU’s ruling and is preparing to present its case in an oral hearing.
Via the Associated Press