Amazon UK has offered to make changes to its Marketplace rules to address concerns of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Last July, the regulatory body launched an investigation into concerns that Amazon was abusing its position as the UK’s leading online retail platform by giving an unfair advantage to a) its own retail business over competing sellers that use Amazon Marketplace, and b) sellers that use Amazon’s own warehousing and delivery services rather than rival logistics businesses.
Now, Amazon has put forward several commitments that propose to:
- Ensure Amazon does not use rival sellers’ Marketplace data to gain an unfair advantage over other sellers. This follows concerns that Amazon’s access to commercially sensitive data relating to third-party sellers helped its retail business decide which products to sell, manage stock levels for those products, set prices and make other important commercial decisions.
- Guarantee all product offers are treated equally when Amazon decides which will be featured in the ‘Buy Box’. This relates to concerns that products being offered by third-party sellers were less likely to appear in the Buy Box than similar offers from either Amazon’s own retail business or third-party sellers that use Amazon’s delivery services.
- Allow third-party businesses using Marketplace to negotiate their own rates directly with independent providers of Prime delivery services so that customers can benefit from lower delivery costs where better rates are negotiated.
- Require Amazon to appoint an independent trustee who will monitor the company’s compliance with these commitments. The CMA will have a direct say in this appointment, ensuring they have the necessary skills and expertise for the job.
Ann Pope, Senior Director for Enforcement at the CMA, said: “Amazon’s commitments to the CMA will help ensure third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace can compete on a level playing field against Amazon’s own retail business and, ultimately, mean that customers in the UK get a better deal. We are now consulting on these commitments, which we believe – at this stage – will address our concerns.”
The CMA has already published a notice of intention to accept the commitments, but is also conducting a consultation process to enable interested third parties to express their views. This phase will run until 1 September 2023 and more details can be found here.
At the end of 2022, Amazon agreed to make similar changes to its business practices in European Union countries. It is also facing regulatory scrutiny in the US and is facing the prospect of a lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission.