New antitrust proceedings against Amazon

Does Amazon have “outstanding cross-market importance” in Germany? It is the third case by the Federal Cartel Office against the group – and this time the authority has new tools at hand.

Employee at the Amazon distribution center in Staten Island, New York City

Dhe Federal Cartel Office has initiated new proceedings against the US online giant Amazon. To this end, the Bonn cartel watchdogs fall back on new regulations in competition law, which are intended to strengthen their role. This means that the competition watchdogs can intervene earlier than in the past if they discover behavior that is dangerous to competition at Amazon.

“In a first step, we are specifically examining whether Amazon is of paramount cross-market importance for the competition,” explained the Cartel Office chief Andreas Mundt. Characteristic for this is “an economic power position that is difficult to attack”. “With its online marketplaces and many other – especially digital – offers, this is an option for Amazon,” added Mundt.

The cartel office had received new instruments from the legislature. In January, changes to antitrust law with regard to digital corporations came into force. The Cartel Office will therefore be able to determine a dominant position of companies in the future and intervene to prohibit certain types of behavior. In the case of the US Internet giant Facebook, the cartel office had already resorted to the new rules and expanded its proceedings.

The mail order company itself stated that Amazon would “not comment on ongoing proceedings”. At the same time, the company assured that it would “cooperate fully with the Federal Cartel Office”.

The competition authorities had already initiated two proceedings against Amazon. In doing so, they examine the extent to which the US group uses price control mechanisms to influence the price setting of retailers operating on the Amazon marketplace. In a second process, they examine the extent to which agreements between Amazon and brand manufacturers such as Apple, which exclude third-party retailers from selling branded products on the Amazon marketplace, constitute a violation of competition rules.