Written October 20, 2022 2:17 p.mUpdated October 20, 2022 at 17.33
Crying times for the American e-commerce giant Amazon. A complaint on behalf of millions of UK users of its platform will be lodged on 31 October at the London Court of Appeal for Competition. The reason: abuse of a dominant position that would harm consumers. According to economists’ estimates, based on the amount of potential losses, the claimed damages could reach 900 million pounds sterling (1.02 billion euros).
At the origin of the case, the law firm appointed Hausfeld and Julie Hunter, a British consumer rights activist, to carry out this procedure “in a class action”, on behalf of the complainants.
Amazon’s “Buy Box” in question
According to the press release explaining the reasons, Amazon will encourage, thanks to “a secret algorithm that favors it”, users to click on its “Buy Box” (shopping box) section. There would be products sold directly by the platform or by third-party sellers “who pay huge inventory and delivery costs” to find themselves featured.
“More than 80% of purchases on Amazon are made through the offers in the ‘Buy Box'”, but “many independent sellers are excluded, even when they offer the same product for less”, it laments.
“Amazon is capitalizing on the well-known consumer trend to focus on prominent and eye-catching displays, such as the ‘Buy Box,'” said Hausfeld attorney Lesley Hannah. “Amazon should not be allowed to take advantage of its customers in this anti-competitive way,” she said.
In a statement obtained by AFP on Thursday, Amazon responded that the complaint was “unfounded” and that the e-commerce giant “still strives to support the 85,000 businesses that sell their products on its online store. UK”. “More than half of our sales of physical products on our UK site come from independent seller partners,” the firm defends.
Other procedures on the back
In July, Amazon had proposed a deal to end two investigations by the European Commission, which suspects it of violating competition rules, particularly in the preferential treatment given to sellers using its delivery services.
The platform has promised to give “equal treatment to all sellers” for the “buy box” and “to show another competing offer”. In particular, it promised, as part of its Prime program, to give sellers “free choice of any carrier.”
The European Commission, which opened an investigation in July 2019, also criticizes Amazon for relying on commercial data from independent retailers to calibrate its own offer. However, no agreement has yet been reached and discussions are continuing.
Another dispute to mention: In Italy, the competition police fined Amazon 1.128 billion euros in December 2021 for discriminating against sellers who had not used its logistics service. The e-commerce group appealed.
Gafa in the sights of the regulators
American technology giants are often accused of breaking competition rules. Google was severely sanctioned by the EU for a total amount of 8 billion euros.
Microsoft has also received several European sanctions for imposing its Internet Explorer browser. Since May 2022, Apple has been accused of abusing a dominant position in contactless payments.