ANTITRUST

EU Competition Watchdog Eyes Changes To Speed Up Amazon Probe

EU Eyes Changes To Speed Amazon Antitrust Probe

Amazon faces what could be a major shift in direction in the now more than year-long investigation into the online shopping and tech giant by European Union antitrust regulators.

EU regulators are considering splitting the current probe into two parts, a move that could speed up the process by focusing on the stronger half, Reuters reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The review comes amid concerns raised by Amazon rivals over the pace at which antitrust regulators are pursuing their investigations.

In particular, the tech giant’s rivals contend they are continuing to suffer competitive damage as the probe drags on, with the added risk that rapid changes in technology could undercut the review, the news service reports.

A move to split the case and focus on the stronger half would not be without precedent, with EU antitrust regulators having pursued a similar course of action in their probe of Google.

While no final decisions have been made yet, given the concerns over Amazon’s dual role as providing an online marketplace for merchants while also offering its own, competitive products may emerge as the stronger half.

By contrast, the EU’s review of Amazon’s use of data to drive sales – in particular, how data may be driving the selection of Amazon’s “Buy Box” winners that appear to the right of product pages, saying “Buy now” or “Add to basket” – is considered by some at the EU’s antitrust enforcement arm as the weaker of the two, according to Reuters.

Splitting the investigation in two, however, would not mean that the “weaker” half would be discarded. Rather, EU antitrust investigators would focus first on the stronger half of the case and the later follow up on other issues in the second half, a tactic used in the Google case.

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