German regulators target Amazon in new antitrust investigation

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-30 00:23:45|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BERLIN, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- The federal cartel office in Germany (Bundeskartellamt) launched an investigation on Thursday to determine whether Amazon is abusing its market power as the country's foremost online retailer.

In a statement released by the Bundeskartellamt, the Bonn-based agency announced that it would examine the U.S. company's terms of business and practices towards sellers on the German online market place "". Andreas Mundt, the president of the antitrust organization, noted that Amazon was the "by far largest online market place in Germany" which meant that many retailers and manufacturers depended on it for their digital sales.

"Amazon functions as a kind of 'gatekeeper' for customers. Its double role as the largest retailer and largest marketplace has the potential to hinder other sellers on its platform," Mundt explained.

The investigation was prompted by "many complaints" received by the Bundeskartellamt during past years which suggested that Amazon may be abusing its market position to the detriment of sellers on its platform. Terms of business and practices which potentially fell foul of antitrust regulations in this context included liability provisions to the disadvantage of sellers, rules on product reviews, and the non-transparent termination and blocking of sellers' accounts, withholding or delaying of payments.

A criterion for the relevance of such conduct under competition law was that Amazon either holds a dominant position, or that the sellers are dependent on Amazon. According to the Bundeskartellamt there were indications that both circumstances applied.

"This will be examined in closer detail," the antitrust regulator wrote.

In September, the European Commission has already begun its own preliminary investigations on the basis of European Union (EU) competition law into Amazon's local marketplaces. The Brussels-based commission has sent out extensive questionnaires to several hundred German retailers towards this end during the summer of 2018.

The Bundeskartellamt emphasized on Thursday that its abuse proceedings against Amazon would supplement the running efforts of EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager to investigate the same company. Whereas the Commission's investigations focused on Amazon's use of data to the disadvantage of marketplace sellers, the German regulators would closely scrutinize the company's terms of business on and practices towards domestic sellers.