Italy’s antitrust authority today (9th December, 2021) fined Amazon €1.13 billion. It says the online vendor exploits its position against independent sellers, in contravention of EU competition rules.
This is one of the largest fines in Europe against the retail giant. Amazon expanded in Italy during lockdown as residents were unable to get to stores to buy non-essential items.
Amazon said it “strongly disagreed” with the Italian regulator’s decision, calling the fines and proposed remedies “unjustified and disproportionate.” The company plans to appeal. In its defence, it noted that over half the annual sales in Italy are from small and medium businesses that have access to other channels to sell their goods.
On the other hand, Italy’s AGCM authority said Amazon requires third-party sellers to use its own logistics service. Called Fulfilment by Amazon, this, the authority says, harms competitors and strengthens the company’s own position.
Furthermore, the company also prevents third-party sellers from gaining access to Amazon’s Prime loyalty program. This would make it “easier to sell to the more than 7 million most-loyal and highest-spending consumers.”
Amazon locks out sellers from special events
In addition, sellers cannot access special events, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Prime Day offers. This also decreases the seller’s chances of their items appearing as a “featured offer.”
“The investigation showed that such benefits are crucial to gain visibility, to boost sales and, in turn, to the success of the sellers’ offers on Amazon.it,” the regulator said.
The authority has ordered the retailer to grant sales benefits and visibility on Amazon.it to all third-party sellers able to meet the standards of its Prime service, which it must publish.
Europe clamping down
Europe famously hit Google with multibillion-dollar fines in three antitrust cases. The push is gaining momentum as regulators and lawmakers take on digital giants.