It’s hard out here for fledgling monopolies. Last Wednesday, the EU officially launched an antitrust investigation into Amazon, according to Reuters, “as regulatory concerns mount around the world on how tech giants exploit customer information to reinforce their market power.”
Though there’s nothing inherently illegal about Amazon’s “dual role” as both marketplace and merchant within that marketplace, what’s in question is how they’ve been using massive amounts of merchant data, specifically whether they “used data about independent sellers on its platform to develop products to sell, thus competing against its own sellers.”
“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,” the European Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said.
The investigation comes after nearly a year’s worth of feedback from retailers and manufacturers, who, per Amazon’s terms of service, “grant Amazon ‘royalty-free’ rights to use their materials, such as technology, trademarks, content and product information.” The European Commission will specifically be looking into “Amazon’s data agreements with marketplace sellers and how the online retailer uses that data to choose which seller is selected to provide a product.”
And while American commissions have — at least as of late — proved to be whale shark-level toothless when it comes to antitrust regulation and enforcement, the EU commission has the authority to fine Amazon “10% of their global turnover and force them to change their business practices.”
You can read more about it at Reuters.