Amazon is an absolute giant of a company, with more assets than many countries and over a million employees worldwide. The company’s revenue in 2019 is estimated to equal approximately 1% of the United States’ entire gross domestic product. It has extended from retail into streaming, cloud data storage, artificial intelligence design, self-driving cars, and a dozen other fields.
Any corporate entity so large and deeply entrenched in our homes and lives deserves to be put under the public microscope. At the beginning of 2020, the European Union began investigating Amazon for anti-trust over its treatment of third-party sellers purchasing its services as an e-commerce platform. The EU pressed objections over the matter in June.
On Tuesday, November 10, more Statements of Objection were added to the investigation. The European Commission now alleges that Amazon broke European anti-trust rules by using the data of independent sellers for its own benefit without adequate disclosure. The violation includes using the sales data to inform its own business decisions, such as lowering their own prices to undercut these business customers.
“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,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief, said in a statement.
A second anti-trust investigation looking into the way Amazon fulfills orders from third-party sellers via their own distribution centers is also underway. Sellers have been alleging that Amazon lumps their products in with others claiming to sell the same thing, with no checks for counterfeit or lower-quality items in what gets shipped out to buyers. This practice, the complaints allege, has harmed the reputation of all third-party sellers versus Amazon itself.
Amazon now has the chance to respond to these conclusions in writing or via an oral hearing. More detailed investigations, and potentially charges or sanctions, will proceed from there.
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