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European Union launches probe into Amazon's use of merchant data

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Brussels Jul 17, 2019, 04.37 PM (IST)

The European Union's (EU) powerful antitrust authority launched an in-depth investigation into Amazon on Wednesday, amid suspicions the US-based online behemoth misuses merchant data hosted on its website.

The formal investigation opens a new chapter in the European Union's campaign to curtail the dominance of US tech firms with Google, Facebook and Apple also regular targets of regulators in Brussels.

"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," the EU's antitrust 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 investigation, which has no deadline, is likely to be the final offensive by Vestager against big tech before the end of her current mandate on October 31.

In an email to AFP, Amazon said: "We will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow."

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Story highlights

The formal investigation opens a new chapter in the European Union's campaign to curtail the dominance of US tech firms with Google, Facebook and Apple also regular targets of regulators in Brussels.