Foreign regulators are increasingly training their sights on U.S. Big Tech companies. In this case, antitrust officials said they searched the local offices of Amazon and Apple in Italy as part of an investigation.
The Italian Competition Authority announced the probe on Wednesday (July 22), saying it was investigating whether the giant corporations had reached an anti-competitive agreement regarding the sale of Apple products. The probe is focused on whether the companies worked “to ban the sale of Apple and Beats-branded products to resellers who do not participate in the official program.”
According to the regulator, “the agreement to exclude some subjects from the marketplace appears potentially suitable to reduce competition due to the raising of barriers to the outlet of online sales markets to the detriment of unofficial retailers, usually consisting of small and medium-sized enterprises.”
The release added that a decrease in retailers active on Amazon “could lower the incentives to compete effectively on the prices of Apple and Beats products, with evident negative effects for consumers and businesses.”
Authority officials carried out inspections at the offices of Amazon Italia Services and Apple Italia.
In the U.S. Congress, lawmakers have raised alarms over accusations that Amazon abuses its position as an online platform by producing copycat products. These then are used to compete against the sellers who already have their own products on the eCommerce giant’s site.
Renewed scrutiny of Amazon was sparked by a Wall Street Journal report that cited former employees who alleged widespread use of sellers’ data.
“It appears that Apple sets the conditions on how Apple Pay should be used in merchants’ apps and websites,” European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, who focuses on competition policy, said in a statement announcing the probes. “It also reserves the ‘tap and go’ functionality of iPhones to Apple Pay. It is important that Apple’s measures do not deny consumers the benefits of new payment technologies, including better choice, quality, innovation and competitive prices.”