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Amazon Merchants Set To Be Questioned Over Data & Higher Fees

As Amazon Australia looks to establish their third party merchants network, antitrust investigators in Europe are probing Amazon’s treatment of merchants in what some have described as retaliatory reaction to US President Trump introducing tariffs.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said overnight that investigators recently sent out questionnaires to merchants that sell through Amazon. The probe focuses on whether Amazon is gaining a competitive advantage from data it gathers on every transaction and from every merchant on its platform, Ms. Vestager said.

In Europe, Ms. Vestager has made no secret of her pursuit of cases where companies might be abusing the data they amass to thwart competitors.

“The question here is about the data,” Ms. Vestager said, adding that the investigation was in its “very early days” and that her office has “no conclusions” about whether to open a formal probe.

The Wall Street Journal has described Ms. Vestager as one of the world’s major technology regulators, after running investigations into tech companies from Brazil to the U.S.

Most recently, she twice fined Alphabet Inc.’s Google for a total of $8.9 billion, for allegedly abusing the dominance of its search engine and Android operating system to favour its own services—decisions the company has either appealed or said it would appeal.

Under her watch, the EU also ruled that Amazon must pay some €250 million in allegedly unpaid taxes to Luxembourg, an order that the Seattle-based company has appealed.

Amazon is also drawing increasing scrutiny in its home country. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the online-retail giant for hurting traditional retailers and what he views as misuse of the U.S. Postal Service for its deliveries. Sen. Bernie Sanders has also introduced a bill aimed at taxing big companies whose employees rely on federal benefits to make ends meet, targeting Amazon specifically.

Some Amazon marketplace sellers expressed support for the inquiry. One major seller in Europe, who declined to be named, complained that Amazon had raised fees for selling media products by as much as 50% in some countries, but said Amazon was so big his company had no choice but to continue using it.

Christian Mayrhofer, chief executive of Dodax AG, a Switzerland-based merchant that makes about half of its revenue on Amazon, said the platform has undercut his own sales, while charging higher fees to third-party sellers.