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Amazon and EU reach agreement to try to level the playing field for third-party sellers

Amazon and EU reach agreement to try to level the playing field for third-party sellers


The e-commerce giant has agreed to no longer use nonpublic seller data to benefit itself as a retailer and is changing how the ‘buy box’ works to give other retailers more prominence.

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Illustration of Amazon’s wordmark on an orange, black, and tan background made up of overlapping lines.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon and European Union regulators have reached an agreement over two long-running antitrust cases, the European Commission has announced, which it’s hoped will help make third-party sellers more competitive on Amazon’s marketplace. The agreement means Amazon will avoid fines that had the potential to stretch into the billions of dollars, but it has agreed to make a series of legally binding commitments that it will have to abide by for up to seven years.

The commitments come in three broad parts that are consistent with those that were made public in July this year. First, Amazon has agreed not to use nonpublic data from independent sellers on its Marketplace platform to make decisions like which products to launch or what prices to sell them at. Amazon has faced criticism from independent brands, who’ve accused the retailer of creating suspiciously similar versions of their own products like shoes or bags.

Second, Amazon is adjusting the design of its “buy box,” the section of the product page with buttons to add an item to your cart or buy it immediately. The EU says that, in the future, this box will no longer preference Amazon’s own offers and that the e-commerce giant will also add a second box to highlight an alternative deal with a different price or delivery option. “As Amazon cannot populate both Buy Boxes with its own retail offers, this will give more visibility to independent sellers,” the EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said.

Finally, Amazon has agreed to reduce the restrictions around third-party retailers selling via Prime. Sellers will be able to use any carrier company they want rather than having to use Amazon’s logistics services and will be able to communicate with customers without going through Amazon, among other changes.

In a statement, Conor Sweeney, Amazon’s director for corporate communications in EMEA, said that the company is “pleased that we have addressed the European Commission’s concerns and resolved these matters.” However, he adds that Amazon continues to disagree with “several of the preliminary conclusions the European Commission made.”

The EU’s scrutiny of Amazon goes back years, and it released its initial statement of objections to the company’s use of third-party seller data two years ago. But while today’s statement marks the end of these two antitrust investigations, regulators in Germany and the UK are continuing to take a close look at Amazon’s practices, Bloomberg notes.

Amazon will have until June 2023 to implement the changes, which will apply across the European Economic Area (EEA). The Italian market is not affected, despite its membership of the EEA, due to separate antitrust action its regulators are pursuing. Any breaches could see Amazon hit with fines of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover or 5 percent of its daily turnover per day of noncompliance.