Risk & Compliance

EU Charges Amazon With Antitrust Violations

Regulators say Amazon illegally uses nonpublic data that it collects from sellers on its retail platform to boost sales of its own-label products.
Matthew HellerNovember 10, 2020

Continuing their crackdown on U.S. tech giants, EU regulators have charged Amazon with stifling competition through its use of marketplace seller data and opened another antitrust investigation of its e-commerce practices.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation bloc, said Tuesday it had preliminarily concluded that Amazon harvests nonpublic data of independent sellers on its retail platform to boost sales of its own-label products.

The charges of breaching the EU’s antitrust rules, if upheld, could lead to Amazon being fined as much as 10% of global sales, or about $19 billion.

European Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager

“We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s commissioner for competition, said in a news release. “Data on the activity of third-party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers.”

Amazon now has a chance to respond to the charges. “No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon,” it said Tuesday in a statement.

As The New York Times reports, the case “is the latest front in a trans-Atlantic regulatory push against Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google as the authorities in the United States and Europe take a more skeptical view of their business practices and dominance of the digital economy.”

The EU has fined Google more than 8 billion euros in three separate cases, all of which allege abuses of market power.

The investigation of Amazon focuses on its behavior in France and Germany, where, according to Verstager, it has a “dominant” position in the market. The commission reviewed data on more than 80 million transactions and 100 million products, finding Amazon used the data from outside sellers to determine what computer accessories, kitchen tools or other products to introduce.

“This is a case about big data,” Verstager said.

The commission also said Tuesday it had launched a parallel investigation of how Amazon chooses which retailer gets top billing in the all-important “Buy Box” on product pages.

(Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)