Amazon faces more antitrust scrutiny in UK and Germany

More antitrust scrutiny for Amazon in Europe: The U.K.’s antitrust watchdog has opened an investigation into Amazon’s marketplace on the same day Germany’s regulator has confirmed it can apply special abuse controls to the e-commerce giant.

The U.K. regulator said the investigation will focus on three main areas — namely:

Commenting on the action in a statement, Sarah Cardell, a general counsel — and currently interim CEO — at the CMA, said:

Millions of people across the U.K. rely on Amazon’s services for fast delivery of all types of products at the click of a button. This is an important area so it’s right that we carefully investigate whether Amazon is using third-party data to give an unfair boost to its own retail business and whether it favours sellers who use its logistics and delivery services – both of which could weaken competition.

Thousands of U.K. businesses use Amazon to sell their products and it is important they are able to operate in a competitive market. Any loss of competition is a loss to consumers and could lead to them paying more for products, being offered lower quality items or having less choice.

A formal investigation will allow us to consider this matter properly.

Amazon was contacted for comment on the U.K. probe.

Although there’s been no official word from the Commission on a resolution, as yet.

Any deal offered by Amazon to EU regulators may not affect the U.K. probe, however, since the country is now outside the EU’s competition regime.

The CMA’s press release also makes a point of noting that the Commission probe into “similar concerns” does not cover “ongoing issues affecting the U.K. now that it has left the European Union.” Although it goes on to add that it will “seek to liaise” with EU counterparts as its own investigation progresses.

In a statement, Andreas Mundt, FCO president, said the determination means it will be able to “intervene and prohibit potential anticompetitive practices of Amazon more effectively” — and engage in “parallel traditional oversight over abuse of dominance.”

Existing FCO proceedings against the e-commerce giant include a probe looking at the extent to which it is influencing the pricing of sellers on Amazon Marketplace by means of price control mechanisms and algorithms; and a second examining agreements between Amazon and brand manufacturers to check whether exclusions placed on third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace constitute a violation of competition rules.

Germany remains an EU member but the FCO’s Amazon investigations are a little different vs. the EU’s merchant seller data probe.

Update: Amazon has now sent this statement — expressing disagreement with the FCO’s designation; and suggesting it might appeal:

We disagree with the FCO’s findings, are analyzing the decision, and will consider our options including an appeal. Amazon is mainly a retailer, and the overall share of e-commerce across all German retail sales was estimated at just 14.7 per cent in 2021 by Handelsverband Deutschland. We compete with many established, successful German and international companies — and the same applies to our businesses in other sectors. In Germany, we invested 36.5 billion euros from 2010 to 2020, we work closely with the local research community, we now employ over 30,000 people, and we will create another 6,000 new jobs this year. Customers, partners, and the tens of thousands of businesses in Germany that sell on our store trust in and benefit from our ability to innovate. Selling partners now represent more than 60 percent of all units sold in the Amazon store, and small and medium-sized businesses selling through Amazon employ over 150,000 employees in Germany.

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