EU launches probe into Amazon over data use

Says it gets undue edge over rivals
The European Union’s powerful antitrust authority launched an in-depth investigation into Amazon on Wednesday, amid suspicions the U.S.-based internet behemoth misuses merchant data hosted on its website. The formal investigation opens a new chapter in the European Union’s campaign to address the dominance of U.S. tech firms, with Google, Facebook and Apple also regular targets of regulators in Brussels. With the new probe, the EU competition watchdog is seeking to expand its oversight powers to data, the most prized asset for the Silicon Valley giants that now dominate web-use worldwide. I have decided to take a very close look at Amazon’s business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer (and) to assess its compliance with EU competition rules,” EU anti-trust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. At the heart of the case is Amazon’s service to third party merchants who use the world’s biggest online retailer to access customers and broaden their reach. In providing this service, Amazon “continuously collects data about the activity on its platform”, the Commission said. Preliminary findings, according to the statement, indicate that Amazon “appears to use competitively sensitive information — about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace.” The data, the Commission suspects, may give Amazon an unfair edge, helping it launch similar items that stifle the rise of rivals.
Amazon said it “will cooperate fully with the European Commission”.
The EU probe begins as Amazon on Wednesday struck a deal with Germany and Austria to shut down investigations that also concerned third party merchants. The company agreed to modify its terms of service worldwide in order to address the concerns of independent sellers using its website.

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