​Amazon's 'dual role' garners new German antitrust probe

5 December 2018 11:45am

29 November 2018. By Lewis Crofts.

Amazon.com's business terms as a marketplace for other online traders has triggered a German antitrust inquiry. It is the second probe into the company's e-commerce business and runs in parallel to an EU probe that examines the potentially illegal use of data to the detriment of sellers.

Opening the probe today, the Bundeskartellamt said Amazon's dual role as the "largest retailer and largest marketplace has the potential to hinder other sellers on its platform."

The authority has received complaints alleging that Amazon is abusing its powerful position through its "terms of business and related practices."

The Bundeskartellamt explained that this includes "liability provisions to the disadvantage of sellers, in combination with choice-of-law and jurisdiction clauses, rules on product reviews, the non-transparent termination and blocking of sellers’ accounts, withholding or delaying payment, clauses assigning rights to use the information material which a seller has to provide with regard to the products offered, and terms of business on pan-European despatch."

It said there were indications both that Amazon was a dominant company for the provision of "marketplace services" and that sellers were dependent on the platform.

It is the second major antitrust probe into Amazon's online sales practices. Earlier this year, the European Commission started to quiz retailers and manufacturers about selling produce over Amazon's marketplace.

The EU regulator suspects that Amazon may be gathering data on sales made by third-party retailers over its platform, which it then uses to help its own sales when acting as a seller itself.

"The Bundeskartellamt’s and the commission’s proceedings supplement one another," the German regulator said in a statement.

"Whereas the commission’s investigations focus on Amazon’s use of data to the disadvantage of marketplace sellers, the Bundeskartellamt is examining in particular the company’s terms of business and practices toward sellers on its German Amazon marketplace."

An Amazon spokesperson said that while the company could not comment on ongoing proceedings, it would "cooperate fully with the Bundeskartellamt and continue working hard to support small and medium-sized businesses and help them grow."

ABA 2019