Thursday, 18 July 2019 10:03

EC opens anti-trust probe into Amazon's use of retailers' data Featured

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EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Courtesy EU

The European Commission has announced a formal anti-trust investigation into Amazon to find out whether the firm's use of sensitive data from independent retailers, who use its marketplace, breaches competition rules within the political bloc.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement on Wednesday: "European consumers are increasingly shopping online. E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don't eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behaviour.

"I have, therefore, decided to take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.”

Vestager gave the first indications of such a probe in September last year when she announced that the EU had started taking a close look at Amazon's business practices.

At the time, she was at pains to emphasise that the investigation was only at the stage of collecting data. "The question that people have been asking increasingly and we've also seen it ourselves in the market is you have these platforms that have sort of dual purpose," she said.

The EC's Wednesday statement pointed out that Amazon's platform both sold products as a retailer and also allowed other retailers to sell products directly to consumers.

"When providing a marketplace for independent sellers, Amazon continuously collects data about the activity on its platform," the EC statement 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."

There is no legal deadline for the investigation to be concluded.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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