Amazon in EU antitrust spotlight over use of merchant data

Move highlights increased scrutiny over tech companies exploiting customers' information


Reuters July 17, 2019
Move highlights increased scrutiny over tech companies exploiting customers' information. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS: Amazon on Wednesday became the target of an antitrust investigation by the European Union over its use of merchants' data, underlining the increasing regulatory scrutiny over how tech companies exploit customers' information.

Amazon, Google, and Facebook are among US tech giants, which have triggered complaints from rivals and academics, prompting antitrust enforcers around the world to look at how they use data to boost their market power, which has also led to calls for their break-up.

The European Commission has been seeking feedback from retailers and manufacturers since September last year into Amazon's dual role as a marketplace for merchants and as a competitor. Merchants have complained about harm caused by Amazon copies of their products.

The Commission said its investigation would focus on two issues. The first is Amazon's standard agreements with marketplace sellers and the second is its use of data in choosing winners of the "buy box", which allows consumers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts.

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

"E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice, better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don't eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behaviour," she said.

Amazon said it would cooperate fully with the EU investigation. The company earlier on Wednesday reached a deal with Germany's antitrust authority to overhaul its terms of service for third-party merchants.

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