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Germany's anti-trust authority launches Amazon probe

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·1-min read
KOBERN-GONDORF, GERMANY - JUNE 29: A general view of an Amazon warehouse is pictured during the coronavirus pandemic on June 29, 2020 in Kobern-Gondorf near Koblenz, Germany. The Verdi labor union has called for strikes at six Amazon warehouse across Germany in order to put pressure on the company over an ongoing disagreement over pay as well as improving workplace conditions to help prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus. Approximately 40 Amazon employees tested positive recently for Covid-19 infection at an Amazon warehouse in Bad Hersfeld. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
Amazon warehouse in Kobern-Gondorf near Koblenz, Germany. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Germany’s federal cartel office (BKA) has started an investigation into whether Amazon (AMZN) is abusing its market dominance to harm third-party sellers on its platform in Germany.

"We are currently investigating whether and how Amazon influences the price-setting of third-party traders on the marketplace," Andreas Mundt, president of the cartel office, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

He told the newspaper that his office had received complaints that Amazon had blocked some sellers at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, alleging that their prices were too high.

“Amazon must not be a controller of prices,” Mundt said.

An Amazon spokeswoman said that the company’s policies were geared towards ensuring that traders on its site set competitive prices.

“Amazon selling partners set their own product prices in our store,” the spokesperson said. “Our systems are designed to take action against price gouging,” she said, adding that those who had concerns should contact its support team for its merchants.

Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest global market, after the US, employing some 13,000 permanent staff at its logistics centres.

After a separate, seven-month investigation, the German watchdog and Amazon reached an agreement last July that the e-commerce giant would amend its terms of service for third-party sellers.

Several thousand workers across six Amazon fulfilment centres in Germany went on strike on 29 June, demanding safer working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, after some 40 workers had tested positive for the virus.

The workers’ union Verdi demanded that Amazon agree to stronger health protection measures, and said Amazon should have slowed down production targets for workers wearing face masks.