The European Commission, against Amazon: keys to the accusation of monopolistic practices in its marketplace


Since a time ago the retail giant is in the crosshairs of antitrust regulators. Thus, in 2018 we explained the investigation of the European Commission against Amazon, in which Brussels studied the use that Jeff Bezos’s company gave to the data of the sellers in its marketplace. At that time, the European Commission released a statement informing about the investigation that it would open against the retail giant for possible practices of anticompetitive behavior. Now, that research has taken a step further.

Various organizations urge the European Commission to reject Amazon’s “weak” offer

In order for the European Commission to cease its antitrust investigations into him, the tech giant made a series of proposals and concessions. However, this attempted agreement has just been threatened by the instances of twelve organismsdigital rights groups, trade unions and NGOs, which criticize Amazon’s offer and call it weak, vague and full of gaps. Among these we find the European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU), the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labor (AK Europa) or the Research Center for Multinational Companies (SOMO).

Amazon’s proposals represent a reduced version of the Digital Markets Law

These companies and organizations ask the European Commission to continue with its investigations and do not give in to Amazon, imposing sanctions and taking the necessary measures. Among the reasons they state to support their petition, these organizations state that A large part of Amazon’s proposals corresponds to the requirements subject to the Digital Markets Law (DMA)which is expected to start applying in the spring of 2023.

Due to this, the motivation of the technological giant would not be a sincere attempt to improve its behavior, but an anticipated movement to comply with a law that, if it was broken, would entail significant sanctions. Among other things, this new law will dictate the prohibition of personal preferences and will establish restrictions not to make use of data that is not public generated by commercial users.

On the other hand, these organizations have stated that “It must be made very clear that Amazon’s commitments cannot be used to prevent the Commission from enforcing the law on the basis of the DMA. Furthermore, accepting Amazon’s commitments while also imposing obligations on it through the DMA would create a two-way regulatory regime that would be confusing, inefficient, and vulnerable to manipulation by Amazon.” Likewise, they have also criticized the proposal that Amazon has put on the table only contemplates applying those commitments for five years.

The twelve organisms ask the regulators to put limits on the power of Amazon

In their request, these twelve organizations have included a request, supported by the above, for the European Commission to launch “structural” remedies that help strictly limit Amazon’s dominance of the market.

Likewise, they also urge the agency to take measures so that the technology giant has to separate its market business from its retail and logistics operations. Finally, mention has been made of Amazon’s malpractice with respect to labor rights, asking the Commission to review the legislation in this regard, as well as the company itself.

The European Commission formally accused Amazon of monopolistic practices in 2020

The report against Amazon assured in 2020 that the company had used information about third-party sellers on its marketplace (products, prices, conversion rates) to adapt your strategy and compete with them on your own platform.

In addition, among the investigations carried out, we also find how Amazon chooses the products and sellers that are located in its “Buy Box”, that is, the seller that appears by default in the direct purchase button on each item, in addition to the “impact of Amazon’s potential use of information from its most competitive sellers in that section.”

In 2020, The Wall Street Journal reports already anticipated that the European Commission would file antitrust charges against Amazon after two years of preparation “for abusing its dominance in online commerce to exclude its smaller rivals.” However, it was also expected that the process would not be quick, having to wait to find out if the Commission considered that Amazon had violated the law or not.

Four years of investigation against Amazon and a long antitrust process

In 2018 Margrethe Vestager, competition commissioner, reported on the investigation she was conducting against Amazon: “We must make sure that the big online platforms do not take away the benefits of eCommerce through anticompetitive behavior.

This is not the only time that Amazon has been embroiled in controversy over possible cases of abuse given its dominant position. In 2019, Jeff Bezos’s company reached an agreement with the German antitrust authority, in which the that the company would review its terms of service in relation to the sellers of its marketplace, and these changes would apply to Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Spain, in addition to their local platforms in the Americas and Asia.

Among the changes that the marketplace applied are giving a 30-day notice and a reason to remove a seller from its platform, in addition to the fact that in certain circumstances, sellers in European markets could take Amazon to court on their own. country and appeal to the decisions of the great marketplace.

In early 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon employees were using the marketplace’s independent seller sales data to help develop Amazon’s own-brand products, even though the company had strict rules against it.

Amazon promised to conduct an internal investigation in response to this allegation, however this information generated renewed interest from US lawmakers: Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have demanded the company clarify its data policies, and Senator Josh Hawley has called for a formal antitrust investigation against the company. Apparently cloudy days await the company of Jeff Bezos.

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