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The Washington Post this morning reports that the European Union's antitrust regulators are accusing Amazon of misusing seller data from its site.

The accusations are framed in formal charges made against Amazon by the EU today, as antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager "said that Amazon illegally harvests data from the third-party sellers in Amazon Marketplace to make decisions about the products it sells itself on its platform … Vestager also announced a new investigation into whether Amazon unfairly features products on its website whose sellers use Amazon’s warehouse and logistics services."

Vestager says that the EUY's issue is not with Amazon's size, but rather with "very specific business conducts which appears to distort genuine competition."

The Post writes that the charges "came a day after EU ministers approved $4 billion in tariffs on U.S. products, an unrelated decision that nevertheless foreshadowed the tense trade relations to be expected with the European Union during President-elect Joe Biden’s term in office."

The Wall Street Journal writes:  "A decision on whether Amazon broke competition laws is expected next year. If the company is found to be in violation, the commission can force Amazon to change its business practices and fine it as much as 10% of its annual global revenue—or up to $28 billion, based on 2019 numbers.

"Amazon can challenge any such decision in an EU court."

KC's View:

I'm not defending illegal behavior here, and to be clear, I am not intimately acquainted with EU antitrust law.  (Actually, I'm not even vaguely familiar with it beyond the basic outlines.)

But … I do wonder, both here and in the US, whether big e-commerce companies are held to different standards than bricks-and-mortar retailers with legacy behaviors.  Any retailer with a robust private label business pay attention to high sales numbers of national brands to decide which ones might be worth knocking off.  And, don't most retailers give preference to some manufacturers over others, depending on how well they work together and how much flexibility they demonstrate?

Again, I'm not defending illegal or predatory behavior.  But I do wonder how many glass houses there may be dotting the retailing landscape.