Italian probe accused Amazon of ‘harmful’ practices and abusing its dominant position.
Amazon.com Inc. was fined more than 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in an Italian antitrust probe that accused the retail giant of “harmful” practices and abusing its dominant in one of the largest penalties handed out by a European regulator.
The tech giant has expanded its shipping services in Europe, with the aim of persuading local businesses to launch their own trucking firms to exclusively transport freight for the company. The retailer also tied access to a set of exclusive benefits to the use of its own logistics, the regulator said.
“Amazon holds a dominant position in the Italian market for intermediation services on marketplaces, which Amazon leveraged to favor the adoption of its own logistics service,” The Italian antitrust regulator said in a statement on Thursday.
Amazon last month lost a European Union court bid to prevent the EU and Italy from running parallel antitrust probes into concerns over how the firm treats sellers on its platform.
The European Commission is looking at how Amazon selects retailers for the highlighted buy box on pages that attract some 80% of sales. As well as how sellers can offer products to Amazon’s Prime loyalty program, which offers free delivery, and if that effectively favors Amazon’s own products and sellers that use Amazon’s logistics and delivery service.
“We strongly disagree with the decision of the Italian Competition Authority and we will appeal,” Amazon said in a statement. “The proposed fine and remedies are unjustified and disproportionate.”
The U.S. company has drawn scrutiny in recent years for the vast trove of data it has amassed on a range of customers and partners, including independent merchants who sell on its retail marketplace, users of its Alexa digital assistant, and shoppers whose browsing and purchase history inform what Amazon shows them on its website.
The data protection commission of Luxembourg, where Amazon has its EU base, in July slapped the company with a record 746 million-euro fine for processing personal data in violation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Germany has multiple antitrust probes into Amazon’s sales. The U.K. is also examining similar issues to the EU.
The EU commission has also said it sees potential antitrust problems with voice assistants and the data they allow Amazon and others to collect on user behavior.
The Italian watchdog said it ordered Amazon to make a number of changes, including “to grant sales benefits and visibility on Amazon.it to all third-party sellers which are able to comply with fair and non-discriminatory standards for the fulfillment of their orders.”
–With assistance from Daniele Lepido.