Top EU Antitrust Cop Says Amazon Probe is Now 'Advanced'

March 10, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas - The European antitrust watchdog responsible for record fines against Google and Facebook is conducting an “advanced” probe into potentially anti-competitive practices by Amazon ($AMZN), according to EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

After announcing the probe in September 2018, the EU’s investigation is now “quite advanced” and has collected “enormous amounts of data” from Amazon and its third-party sellers, Vestager said in an interview with Cheddar on Sunday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

“We’ve been very thankful to all the businesses that are giving us enormous amounts of data from their own markets, from their insights,” said Vestager, whose office has the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global revenue for breaching EU antitrust policies. “And we’re in the process of analyzing this. We’re quite advanced but we don’t have a conclusion yet.”

Vestager, who has made a name for herself as the most aggressive enforcer of antitrust policy among Western democracies, is up for reelection in the May 2019 European elections. She told a group of reporters on Sunday that she hoped the Amazon probe would produce results before she could potentially lose her position in the coming election.

Vestager’s probe concerns the data Amazon collects on sellers in its marketplace and whether the retail giant unfairly leverages that data to more effectively sell and promote its own products. She said the probe would hinge on whether investigators could prove that Amazon is “dominant” in a specific market, and that her office is broadly researching what it means for a business to abuse “double-sided platforms” like Amazon’s relationship with external sellers.

In July 2018, Vestager’s office fined Google a record billion for using its Android operating system to promote its search engine. She also slapped Facebook with a million fine for giving misleading statements about its plan to share data with WhatsApp.

Amazon didn’t immediately return Cheddar’s request for comment.