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In the United States, Amazon faces new lawsuits

The e-commerce giant is accused of anticompetitive practices in California.

A new legal front is opening up for Amazon in the United States. The California State Attorney filed a complaint on Wednesday against the e-merchant for violating local competition laws. After two years of investigation, Robe Bonta believes that Amazon’s third-party sellers are forced to sign contracts that penalize them if they sell their products for less on a competing e-commerce site – for example Walmart, Target, eBay but also their own websites.

The penalties provided for in the event of slippage are dissuasive. Amazon deprives them of the “buy now” button and puts them less prominently on its site, two measures that have a strong impact on their sales. In some cases, third-party sellers are delisted. They have little choice, because Amazon is, thanks to its unparalleled audience, a major commercial outlet.

Ultra-dominant across the Atlantic

These agreements have significant collateral effects in California, notes the prosecutor. They prevent Amazon’s competitors from being competitive, which further promotes the overwhelming domination of the group founded by Jeff Bezos. But it also hurts third-party sellers, who have to pay higher fees at Amazon, as well as consumers, who shop more expensively. Sellers explained, in the context of the survey, that they could sell their products cheaper on competing sites because the costs are lower there. But we don’t because if we do we will be deprived of the “buy now” button. »

“For years, California consumers have paid more for their online purchases because of Amazon’s anti-competitive practices., laments Rob Bonta in a press release. (…) With this complaint, we reply. »

To these arguments, Amazon replies that sellers are free to set prices as they wish and that, like any trader, it reserves the right to less highlight offers that it deems less competitive. The e-merchant hopes that the California prosecutor’s complaint will be dismissed, as was that of the District of Columbia prosecutor in March. The latter appealed.

If Amazon is the subject of such complaints, in the United States but also in Europe, it is because its status is extraordinary. The e-retailer claims 40% of online sales in the United States. It has 160 million prime subscribers, who shop primarily on Amazon, and 25 million in California alone. But he is not only ultra-dominant. It is also disputed in that it is both judge and party, merchant and intermediary offering on its site the products of third-party sellers. The European Commission has thus criticized Amazon for using the data of these sellers to optimize its own sales, or to better highlight those who use its paid logistics services. Amazon made a commitment this summer to respond to the fears of the European Union.

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