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EU confirms in-depth investigation into Amazon use of sellers data

The European Commission has confirmed the start of a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on its marketplace, according Telecompaper. The Commission said Amazon’s agreements with sellers may breach EU competition rules and the company could be abusing its dominant position.

The announcement follows a preliminary investigation started last autumn. Several EU countries, such as Germany and Italy, have also been looking at how Amazon treats third-party sellers on its marketplace, amid concerns it could be taking advantage of their data to boost its own sales. The EU last month approved new regulation aimed at ensuring more transparency in the agreements between major online B2B platforms and their users.

The Commission’s preliminary fact-finding found that Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace. The in-depth investigation will look at the standard agreements between Amazon and marketplace sellers, which allow Amazon’s retail business to analyse and use third-party seller data. In particular, the Commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.

It will also investigate the role of data in the selection of the winners of the ‘Buy Box’ and the impact of Amazon’s potential use of competitively sensitive marketplace seller information on that selection. 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.