Germany's antitrust watchdog has moved to widen an existing investigation of Amazon's business in the market in light of special abuse powers it confirmed are applicable to the ecommerce giant's business in the country this summer.
The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) said yesterday it is extending two ongoing "abuse control proceedings" against Amazon to include the application of "the new instrument for more effective oversight over large digital companies" (aka, Section 19a of the GWB; aka it's rebooted competition law) — which is a reference to a 2021 reform of German competition law that targets digital giants found to have so-called "paramount significance for competition across markets" with a proactive antitrust regime that outlaws practices such as self-preferencing, denying interoperability and exclusively bundling their own services to the detriment of rival offerings, among other ex ante prohibitions listed in Section 19b of the law.
The German law is similar to the pan-EU Digital Markets Act (DMA) which was recently adopted by the bloc — and will come into force next year — so the FCO is ahead of the curve here and its application of special abuse controls may offer a little taster of the extended scrutiny that's coming down the pipe across the continent for Big Tech.
The FCO has two open investigations of Amazon that are being extended to include scrutiny of whether they comply with the rebooted competition regime — one examining price control mechanisms it says are used by Amazon to algorithmically control price setting by third-party sellers on its marketplace; and another proceeding focused on what it dubs "brandgating", aka "possible disadvantages" for marketplace sellers as a result of various instruments applied by Amazon, such as agreements with (brand) manufacturers on whether individual sellers can or cannot sell (brand) products on the Amazon marketplace.
[...] A Europe Union competition investigation of the ecommerce giant's use of third party seller data has been grinding on for years — and an attempt by Amazon to settle the probe this summer, by offering a set of commitments, was swiftly denounced by dozens of civil society and digital rights groups as weak sauce.
A few days later Commission EVP and competition chief Margrethe Vestager warned the company its offer wasn't good enough.
The EU is still considering industry feedback on Amazon's commitments so it remains to be seen where that pan-EU antitrust procedure will land.