Amazon Faces E.U. Antitrust charges


LONDON – European Union regulators filed antitrust lawsuits against Amazon on Tuesday. The online retail giant has violated competition laws by unfairly using its size and access to data to harm smaller retailers who rely on the company to reach customers.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation bloc, said Amazon had abused its dueling role both as a retail store of millions of vendors and as a retailer selling its own competing goods on the platform. Authorities accused Amazon of collecting data from millions of merchants who use the market to discover popular products, then copy them and sell them at a lower price.

"We have to ensure that dual role platforms with strong market power such as Amazon do not distort competition," said Margrethe Vestager, Vice-President of the Commission for Digital Issues, in a statement. "Third party activity data should not be used for the benefit of Amazon if it competes with those sellers."

The case, which has been anticipated for months, is the latest front of a transatlantic regulatory push against Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, as the authorities in the US and Europe are more skeptical about their business practices and their dominance over the digital economy. Last month, the Justice Department brought antitrust charges against Google, and Apple and Facebook are under investigation in both Washington and Brussels.

Many in Europe will watch Amazon's announcement resonate with the new administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is expected to pursue policies that curb the power of the industry. The Trump administration has criticized Ms. Vestager for targeting American companies like Apple, despite opening her own industry investigations.

In the case of Amazon, Tuesday's announcement was only part of the regulatory process. It can take many months or even years for a fine and other penalties to be announced. The commission could also reach an agreement with Amazon.

The European Commission announced that it has also launched a new, parallel investigation into Amazon's policies, which may artificially favor its own retail offerings and products from other companies that pay to use Amazon's logistics services.

Amazon did not have an immediate comment on the European Commission's investigation. In the past, the company has denied wrongdoing and attributed its size to building a great product that consumers will enjoy.