Amazon faces escalating European Union antitrust probe into sales data

It will also let Amazon defend itself against the charges faces a formal antitrust complaint from the European Union (EU), an important step in a long-running investigation that could pave the way for massive fines or changes to the company’s business model. 

EU regulators will send Amazon a so-called statement of objections in the coming weeks amid concerns the US retail giant may be shortchanging smaller merchants who sell on its marketplace, according to a person familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The complaint is expected to lay out investigators’ evidence into Amazon’s alleged misuse of merchants’ data on the online sales platform. It will also let Amazon defend itself against the charges, the first and main opportunity to fight back against the EU case before officials rule on whether the company violated antitrust law. 

The online retailer is one of several tech firms that have attracted the scrutiny of the EU’s powerful competition watchdog. Regulators are wrestling with how to act against online giants that critics say run a rigged game when they set the rules for platforms that also host their rivals.

EU officials have quizzed online merchants over the past year and a half to build a picture of how Amazon competes with its own sellers to win the “buy box” on its website. 
The coveted designation determines which offer -- whether from Amazon’s own inventory, or that of a third-party merchant — is displayed to shoppers as the default option to buy a particular product.

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