PARIS — Amazon’s role as a marketplace for independent retailers while doing business as a retailer itself has come under the scrutiny of the European Commission, which said Wednesday that it has opened a probe into possible anti-competitive practices by the Seattle-based e-commerce giant.
While increased competition among retailers in Europe is bringing better choice and prices for consumers who are buying more online, Internet platform operators could abuse their dominant positions, noted commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
“We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior,” she said, explaining her decision to investigate Amazon’s dual role as marketplace and retailer with an eye to European Union competition rules.
The commission, the EU’s executive arm, will examine agreements between Amazon and retailers on its platform allowing the company to collect and use data from third parties as well as how it selects winners of the “buy box” feature.
“Winning the ‘Buy Box’ seems key for marketplace sellers as a vast majority of transactions are done through it,” said the EC, noting the prominent display of the feature allowing consumers to add items into their shopping carts.
“We will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow,” Amazon said in a statement.
Vestager is known for her role in putting Europe at the center of efforts to regulate technology giants, ordering fines and back taxes from companies like Apple, Google and Facebook.