December 5, 2023

More antitrust scrutiny at Amazon in Europe: The UK’s antitrust watchdog opened an investigation into Amazon’s marketplace on the same day the German regulator confirmed it could apply special abuse controls to the e-commerce giant.

UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) He said The investigation will first look at whether Amazon has a dominant market position and, if so, whether it is abusing that position and distorting competition by giving an unfair advantage to its retail business or sellers using its services, compared to other third-party sellers. On the Amazon UK Marketplace.

The move follows a similar (ongoing since 2018) scrutiny of the e-commerce giant by the European Union – of which the UK officially ceased being a member at the beginning of last year. Hence the CMA intervened in its own investigation now, and the country has left the bloc, as it is no longer obligated to avoid repeating the investigations led by the commission.

The British regulator said the investigation will focus on three main areas – namely:

  • How Amazon collects and uses third-party seller data — including whether this gives it an unfair advantage in relation to business decisions made by its retail arm
  • How Amazon sets the criteria for assigning suppliers to be the preferred/first choice in the ‘Buy Box’ – aka a prominent feature displayed on product pages that provides customers with one-click options to ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ in connection with items from a particular seller
  • How Amazon determines eligibility criteria for selling under the Prime Lab loyalty program that offers members certain benefits, such as free and fast delivery

Commenting on the action in a statement, Sarah Cardell, General Counsel – and currently interim CEO – at the CMA said:

Millions of people across the UK rely on Amazon for fast delivery of all types of products at the click of a button. This is an important area, so it is right that we carefully investigate whether Amazon is using third-party data to unfairly boost its retail business and whether it favors sellers who use its logistics and delivery services — both of which can dampen competition.

“Thousands of businesses in the UK use Amazon to sell their products and it is important to be able to operate in a competitive market. Any loss of competition is a loss for consumers and may result in them paying more for products, offering lower quality items or having fewer options.

“The official investigation will allow us to properly look into this matter.”

Amazon has been contacted for comment on the UK investigation.

It also emerged today that the EU investigation could be close to being resolved, according to a report released in F Suggesting that Amazon will offer to share more data with competitors and give buyers a wide range of products in order to settle the EU proceedings.

earlier this month, Reuters It also mentioned that Amazon was offering to share data and boost competitors’ product visibility in an effort to avoid an EU antitrust fine.

Although there has been no official word from the committee on any decision, yet.

However, any deal Amazon presents to EU regulators may not affect the UK investigation, as the country is now outside the EU competition regime.

The CMA press release also notes that the Commission’s investigation into “similar concerns” does not cover “ongoing issues affecting the UK now that it has left the EU”. Although she goes on to add that she will “seek contact” with her EU counterparts as her investigation progresses.

Amazon has faced other antitrust measures in the region – it previously agreed to make adjustments to the terms it offers to sellers after intervention from the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO).

Since last year, the British Foreign Office has also been assessing whether Amazon meets its own minimum abuse controls, following an update to local competition law aimed at targeting the market power of the digital giants. In another development today, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed That Amazon meets the minimum requirements for enforcement, and concludes that the tech giant is dominant in terms of marketplace services for third-party sellers.

In a statement, Andreas Mundt, the head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said this design means it will be able to “intervene and prohibit potential anti-competitive practices in Amazon more effectively” – and engage in “traditional parallel oversight of abuse of dominance”.

This means that Amazon will face more and faster antitrust interventions in the German market – which is ahead of the regional curve in modernizing the rules of digital competition.

Current State Department actions against the e-commerce giant include An investigation that investigates how it affects sellers’ prices on Amazon Marketplace via price control mechanisms and algorithms; and second screening agreements between Amazon and Brand Manufacturers to verify whether exclusions for third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace constitute a violation of competition rules.

Germany is still a member of the European Union, but the Amazon investigation by the British Foreign Office is a little different from the investigation of commercial sellers’ data in the European Union.

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