Amazon third party sales data sought by FTC

31 July 2019 5:03pm

30 July 2019, by Joshua Sisco

The US Federal Trade Commission is seeking sales data from third-party retailers using Amazon to hawk their goods, MLex has learned.

Over roughly the past month, it is understood that the FTC has subpoenaed certain sales data for products not sold directly by Amazon, as the agency ramps up for an antitrust investigation of the e-commerce giant.

The FTC's questions don't reference specific conduct or a theory of harm, according to a description of one civil investigative-demand letter outlined for MLex.

A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment*. It isn't known whether the company has received a subpoena from the FTC.

The European Commission has its own more advanced antitrust investigation of Amazon underway.

The commission and FTC are in communication about antitrust issues related to Amazon, but as recently as July 17, no confidential information had been shared, it is understood.

The lack of a waiver allowing for the exchange of confidential information suggests any investigation of the company in the US has yet to progress very far.

At issue in Europe's investigation is Amazon’s “dual” role as a marketplace, which hosts sellers, and as a retail business selling branded goods in competition with those same sellers. The suspicion is that Amazon may use the data to annex the most profitable markets from sellers, leaving them to sell the less attractive goods.

European investigators also want to know more about Amazon’s "Buy Box," which channels consumers to select sellers. There was no reference to the Buy Box in the subpoena described to MLex.

The FTC declined to comment.

The FTC has been prepping investigations of online platforms for several months, having formed a dedicated task force to investigate antitrust violations at Internet companies.

In its quarterly earnings report last week, Facebook said it was informed in June by the FTC that it's under investigation.

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