EU launches antitrust probe into Amazon’s use of merchant data

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The world’s largest online retailer Amazon is facing a “full-blown” investigation from the European Union’s antitrust regulators to see if its use of other merchants’ data breaches competition rules.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Wednesday announced the opening of a formal investigation into the company. It aims to determine how Amazon is hosting independent merchants on its site and at the same time competing with those same retailers by using their data for its own sales. The investigation will center on Amazon’s “dual role” as both a retailer and a marketplace, Vestager said.

“Based on the Commission’s preliminary fact-finding, Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information – about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace,” said the commissioner.

Following her announcement of the probe launch, Amazon said: “We will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow.”

The European Commission started studying Amazon’s practices of using merchant data in 2018, the same year it fined Google $5 billion for anti-competitive practices. In 2016, Apple was forced to pay $16 billion in back taxes to Ireland.

Last week, the French parliament passed a law taxing tech giants like Google and Facebook, which have been accused of exploiting global tax loopholes.