Amazon has been informed by the European Commission of its preliminary view that it has breached EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in online retail markets.
The US online retailer was accused of “systematically relying” on non-public business data of independent sellers who sell on its marketplace which benefits Amazon’s own retail business and directly competes with third party sellers.
Margrethe Vestager, the Commission’s vice-president, said Amazon used “big data” to illegally discourage competition in the biggest online retail markets in Europe.
The Commission said it has also opened a second formal investigation to determine whether the criteria that Amazon sets to select a winner of the “Buy Box” lead to preferential treatment of Amazon’s retail business or of the sellers that use Amazon’s logistics and delivery services.
Amazon had previously announced its third quarter income for 2020 of $6.3bn (£4.7bn), the company saw a rise during the pandemic as an increasing number of shoppers turned to online sales.
Vestager said “We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition. Data on the activity of third party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers.
“The conditions of competition on the Amazon platform must also be fair. Its rules should not artificially favour Amazon’s own retail offers or advantage the offers of retailers using Amazon’s logistics and delivery services.”
She added: “With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”
In a statement of response Amazon told The BBC: “Amazon represents less than 1% of the global retail market, and there are larger retailers in every country in which we operate. No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon.”
The company also pointed out that there are more than 150,000 European businesses selling through its online marketplace.