U.K. Regulator Plans Probe Into Amazon’s Data Usage

The U.K.’s competition regulator is planning a formal investigation into Amazon.com Inc., the Financial Times reported, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.

The Competition and Markets Authority has been analyzing Amazon’s business for months, according to the newspaper. While the timing and scope of any investigation were still being worked on, the probe may focus on whether Amazon favors merchants that use its logistics and delivery services, the report said.

The move by the U.K. watchdog follows an ongoing investigation in Amazon in the European Union and also comes after EU and U.K. authorities announced probes into alleged anti-competitive behavior at Facebook Inc. Silicon Valley tech giants are coming under increasing antitrust scrutiny both at home and globally as governments around the world fight back against their growing influence over most aspects of modern life.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Bloomberg. The U.K. regulator declined to comment to the FT.

The CMA’s analysis has focused on how Amazon uses the data it collects on its platform, according to the FT. It also scrutinized how the Seattle-based e-commerce giant decides which merchants appear in the so-called buy box — the panel where Amazon highlights sellers of a particular product and is a key tool to drive sales.

The buy box forms part of the investigation currently underway in the EU, which is also looking into whether Amazon violated antitrust rules over its use of business data from independent sellers on its marketplace to benefit its own retail arm. The region is focusing on “very specific business conduct” linked to the company’s dual role as a retailer and a platform for smaller merchants, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust commissioner, said last November.

Amazon said at that time it disagreed with the EU’s assertions. The probe raises the risk of potential fines of as much as 10% of annual sales or a possible order for it to change business practices.

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