EU opens antitrust probe into Amazon

EU opens antitrust probe into Amazon
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Amazon is the target of a new antitrust probe from European Union (EU) regulators over how the e-commerce giant handles data collected from third-party sellers on its platform.

The European Commission, the EU's enforcement arm, announced Wednesday morning that Amazon's dual function as a platform and as a supplier of goods presents an unfair advantage against competition.

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“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 behavior,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Vestager said that the investigation will examine whether Amazon's use of marketplace data gives it an advantage over third-party sellers as well as how the site runs its "buy box," which allows users to shop and add items to virtual shopping carts from specific merchants or retailers.

“We will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow," Amazon spokesman Conor Sweeney said in a statement to The Hill.

Amazon's market power is also being closely scrutinized in the U.S.

On Wednesday, a company executive was forcefully questioned in a House antitrust hearing about whether it uses its power over its platform to hurt third-party vendors.

"Our algorithm such as the buy box is aimed to predict what customers want to buy, and we apply the same criteria whether you’re a third-party seller or Amazon to that because we want customers to make the right purchase regardless of whether it's a seller or Amazon,” Nate Sutton, Amazon's associate general counsel, told lawmakers.

In recent years, the EU has been much more aggressive in taking antitrust action against American tech companies than the U.S. government. Vestager has issued three multibillion-dollar fines against Google in as many years for breaking the continent's competition laws.

— This report was updated at 9:35 a.m.