Amazon acts to end EU antitrust investigations, avoid fine


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BRUSSELS — Amazon has offered to halt online selling and marketing practices EU antitrust regulators regard as anti-competitive to try to end two investigations and avoid a possible hefty fine, ahead of EU rules that will target such methods from next year.

The European Commission in 2020 charged Amazon with using its size, power and data to push its own products and gain an unfair advantage over rival merchants that also use its platform.

The U.S. online retail giant has offered to refrain from using sellers’ data for its own competing retail business and its private label products, the EU competition said on Thursday.

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It will treat sellers equally when ranking their offers for the “buy box” on its website that generates the bulk of its sales, confirming a Reuters story.

It will also set up a second buy box for a rival product if it differs substantially in price and delivery from the product in the first box.

Sellers and offers on its Prime program will be chosen based on non-discriminatory criteria, with sellers also allowed to choose their own logistics and delivery services company instead of Amazon’s competing logistics services.

Rivals and customers have until Sept. 9 to provide feedback on Amazon’s proposal before the Commission decides whether to accept the offer or demand more.

Amazon, which risks a fine of up to 10% of its global turnover if found guilty of breaching EU rules, criticized the new tech rules known as the Digital Markets Act, which come into force next year and will designate it as an online gatekeeper subject to onerous rules.

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“While we have serious concerns about the Digital Markets Act unfairly targeting Amazon and a few other U.S. companies, and disagree with several conclusions the European Commission made, we have engaged constructively with the Commission to address their concerns,” the company said.

It said the concessions would “preserve our ability to serve European customers and the more than 185,000 European small and medium-sized businesses selling through our stores.”

This is not the first time Amazon has decided to head off EU sanctions. In 2017, it scrapped some clauses in its distribution deals with European e-book publishers, leading regulators to end their investigation without a fine.

In 2019, it overhauled its terms of service for third-party merchants and convinced the German antitrust agency to drop its seven-month investigation. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee Editing by Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis)

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