- Kristopher Fraser |
Amazon has earned the ire of Europe and Germany. The company is currently Germany's largest retailer and an online host for smaller stores, and can now add target for an anti-trust probe to their list of German accomplishments thanks to the terms the company sets for other sellers.
Germany is Amazon's biggest market outside of the United States, and the European Union has them under scrutiny because it is unclear as to whether or not the company gathers information on rival sellers to help launch their own products. Bloomberg reported that German regulators have received numerous complaints from sellers.
Europe is a difficult market for technology companies. Google has faced fines, Apple has seen a hefty tax bill, and new laws could tighten regulations for online retailers.
"Amazon functions as a kind of gatekeeper for customers," said Andreas Mundt, the head of the authority, the Bundeskartellamt, in a press release emailed to Bloomberg. "Its double role as the largest retailer and largest marketplace has the potential to hinder other sellers on its platform."
Amazon "will cooperate with the Bundeskartellamt and continue working hard to support small and medium-sized businesses and help them grow," the company said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
In the wake of the news, Amazon shares took a 0.9 percent tumble.
Mundt will be analyzing business practices that could have violated anti-trust laws including liability provisions that could disadvantage sellers, contract clauses that restrict where sellers can take lawsuit against Amazon, rules on product reviews, and the non-transparent process of blocking and closing seller accounts. The probe will also review withholding or delaying payment and clauses that assign rights to use information a seller must provide on the products it offers and the terms of business for delivery.
Bundeskartellamt must prove that the sellers are dependent on Amazon. This case could completely alter the way online retailers operate in the EU, affecting how companies treat users and how the government looks at buyers and sellers. Online retailers are already facing a battle in EU with new laws trying to be passed regarding settling clear terms of service and handling complaints.