The European Commission announced on Wednesday that it was opening an antitrust investigation into the online retail giant Amazon, to investigate whether the US company is exploiting the data it has on its competition, via its e-commerce platform, to its advantage.
The European Commission’s investigation will focus on standard agreements between Amazon and third-party vendors, which allow Amazon to analyze and use data from them. It will also aim to examine the impact of these data on Amazon’s competitive behavior. Finally, it will aim to determine if this data affects the choice of retailers featured in “Buy box” space on the Amazon website.
The “Buy Box” is displayed prominently on Amazon and allows customers to add items from a specific retailer directly into their shopping carts. “Winning the “Buy Box” seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it,” the Commission said in a statement.
Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition Policy, said that European consumers are increasingly buying online and that e-commerce has boosted competition and brought more choice and better prices.
However, “we must ensure that the major online platforms do not eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior, so I decided to take a close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as a merchant and retailer, in order to assess its compliance with EU competition rules, “she said.
The Commission said it will carry out a thorough investigation “as a matter of priority,” while noting that the opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome and that there is no legal deadline to end an antitrust investigation.
In a press release on Wednesday, Amazon’s management said it will “cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue to work hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow.”