Amazon Gets U.K. Antitrust Scrutiny On Data Usage, FT Says

Amazon.com Inc. is getting U.K. antitrust scrutiny into how it uses data from smaller sellers on its site, the Financial Times reported, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.

The Competition and Markets Authority has been analyzing Amazon’s business for months, according to the newspaper. While the regulator hasn’t yet announced an investigation, it may focus on whether Amazon favors merchants that use its logistics and delivery services, the report said.

Silicon Valley giants are the focus of a vast array of European probes into how internet giants increasingly govern the terms of what people do online, often gaining insights into user behavior that no-one else can match. The U.K. move adds to European Union and German probes of Amazon’s business and follows multiple investigations into Google, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc.

Amazon declined to comment on the investigation.

“We continue to work hard to deliver great value and low prices for customers and support the tens of thousands of U.K. small and medium-sized enterprises that account for more than half of everything we sell in our online store,” the company said in a statement.

“The CMA cannot speculate as to which cases it may or may not investigate,” a spokesperson for the regulator said in an email.

The CMA’s analysis has focused on how Amazon uses the data it collects on its platform, according to the FT. It also scrutinized how the Seattle-based e-commerce giant decides which merchants appear in the so-called buy box -- the panel where Amazon highlights sellers of a particular product and is a key tool to drive sales.

The buy box forms part of the investigation currently underway in the EU, which is also looking into whether Amazon violated antitrust rules over its use of business data from independent sellers on its marketplace to benefit its own retail arm. The region is focusing on “very specific business conduct” linked to the company’s dual role as a retailer and a platform for smaller merchants, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust commissioner, said last November.

Amazon said at that time it disagreed with the EU’s view. The probe raises the risk of potential fines of as much as 10% of annual sales or a possible order for it to change business practices.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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