After Facebook and Google, Amazon faces probe in Europe for use of merchant data

European Commission orders probe into Amazon over third-party selling

Amazon rep Reuters Representational image | Reuters

After technology giants Facebook and Google, now online retailer Amazon is facing the music in Europe by the European Commission into the company's use of sensitive information collected from independent retailers. The commission has ordered an antitrust investigation into its dealings with third-party merchants. 

The European Commission has ordered the probe to assess whether Amazon's use of sensitive data from independent retailers who sell on its marketplace is in breach of EU competition rules. As part of the investigation, the commission will take "very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.” 

The commission will probe if Amazon is abusing its dual role—as a seller and a marketplace where independent sellers can sell products directly to consumers. According to preliminary findings, the commission felt that Amazon used competitively sensitive information—about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace. 

As part of its in-depth investigation the commission will focus on whether and how the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition and its “Buy Box” option. 

While the probe could eventually lead to formal charges, fines and orders to change business practices, it may also be dropped.

“We will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow,” an Amazon spokesman was quoted by The Washington Post as saying.

The formal investigation opens a new chapter in the European Union's campaign to curtail the dominance of US tech firms with Google, Facebook and Apple also regular targets of regulators in Brussels.