Europe

EU Begins Antitrust Probe Into Amazon, Fines Qualcomm

EU Antitrust Reg Margrethe Vestager Plans Big Tech Policy Report

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, is preparing to leave office with a bang, launching an investigation into Amazon while also preparing a fine against U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm, according to the Financial Times.

Vestager is at the close of her five-year term as competition commissioner, during which she took on tech giants, including Google, which was fined more than 8 billion euros ($9 billion) in three separate antitrust cases; and Apple, which had to pay 13 billion euros ($14.6 billion) in back taxes to the Irish government. Just a few weeks ago, President Donald Trump accused Vestager of hating the U.S.

Brussels had been carrying out a preliminary investigation into Amazon, which has now moved onto a formal probe. The commission said it is investigating the “standard agreements” between Amazon and third-party merchants and how “the use of accumulated marketplace seller data by Amazon as a retailer affects competition.” It is also looking into how retailers qualify for the “Buy Box,” which allows customers to add a product directly to their online shopping cart.

The outcome of the formal investigation could lead to fines or force Amazon to alter its business practices, such as changing the conditions it places on third parties, or placing restrictions on how their data can be used to develop competitor’s products. It’s important to note that the commission rarely launches a formal investigation unless it believes it has a strong case.

Amazon said in a statement that it would “co-operate fully with the European Commission.” Its lawyer, Nate Sutton, was recently questioned on the use of third-party seller data by Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, who accused the firm of being a “trillion-dollar company that runs an online platform with real-time data on millions of purchases and billions in commerce and can manipulate algorithms on its platform and favor its own product.”

As for Qualcomm, sources told the Financial Times that the commission will soon announce that it is fining the company for price dumping on some of its chipsets. The fine is expected to be less than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion).

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