12 Dec 2022

Amazon agrees to commitments to bring European Commission abuse of dominance investigations to an end

As reported by the Financial Times, Amazon has apparently agreed to a set of commitments with the European Commission to close two investigations it launched against Google: one taking issue with Amazon systematically relying on non-public business data of independent sellers who sell on its marketplace, to the benefit of Amazon’s own retail business, which directly competes with those third party sellers and the other looking into the possible preferential treatment of Amazon’s own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use Amazon’s logistics and delivery services.

The commitments would have been “market tested” with rivals and agreed with EU officials. The agreement has not yet been announced by the Commission, but the announcement could be made by the end of the year or early next year. Commitments are usually seen as a win-win for the Commission and the investigated company. The former saves administrative resources as it does not need to produce a lengthy decision and face a possible appeal, the latter will escape a significant fine, save legal fees and be able to move on. 

As per this agreement, Amazon would commit to increasing the visibility of rivals’ products by giving them equal treatment on Amazon’s “buy box”, which generates most purchases on the site. In addition, Amazon will let sellers using its Prime membership scheme choose any logistics company and negotiate terms directly, instead of being locked into the group’s own services. These commitments are interesting as they come a few months before the entry into force of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) on 2 May 2023, which will impose a series of strict obligations on digital gatekeepers, including rules against self-preferencing. At a public workshop held by the Commission on 5 December 2022, Chris Meyers, Amazon’s associate general counsel, stated that the commitments were in line with how the group planned to comply with Brussels’ new rules. 

It is important to note that these commitments will not solve all issues raised by Amazon’s practices, as they relate only to the treatment of third-party resellers by Amazon. The DMA will subject Amazon to a broader set of obligations, and some unresolved issues (such as the exclusionary effects of the Prime bundle) will require further antitrust intervention. 

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