Germany widens antitrust investigations of Amazon

Germany widens antitrust investigations of Amazon

The German antitrust watchdog is using a new law to expand its probes of the US tech giant.

This week, Germany’s antitrust agency announced that it has expanded two probes into US e-commerce giant The agency is making use of a new regulation that allows it to prohibit anti-competitive behaviour at an earlier stage than before, the report says.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO), or Bundeskartellamt in German, said that it has extended two ongoing abuse control proceedings against Amazon to now include the application of a “new instrument” for more effective oversight over large digital companies. The new instrument is Section 19a of the German Competition Act (GWB).

The new Section lets the FCO order measures and remedies against a company much faster and with less red tape. Now, the agency can proceed without having established a specific infringement of the law by a market participant. The only prerequisite for ordering remedies is that the FCO has identified a “significant, lasting or repeated disturbance of competition” on at least one market or across markets.

Andreas Mundt, President of the FCO, issued a statement about the move. “We are examining in both proceedings whether and how Amazon impedes the business opportunities of sellers that are active on the Amazon marketplace and compete with Amazon’s own retail business.”

“Amazon operates the most important marketplace in e-commerce and thus has a key position in that area, which allows the company to set far-reaching rules for competition on its platform”, Mundt added.

What Germany’s looking at

In the first proceeding, the FCO is examining price control mechanisms, involving the practice of using algorithms to control the prices set by third-party sellers on the Amazon marketplace.

The second proceeding deals with the issue of ‘brandgating’. The FCO is examining possible disadvantages for marketplace sellers caused by various instruments applied by Amazon.

Mundt declared that in both proceedings, the new law would allow the FCO “to intervene more efficiently against Amazon’s anti-competitive practices”.

Amazon has faced similar scrutiny in Italy and the United Kingdom.