Report: FTC could file antitrust lawsuit against Amazon

Report: FTC could file antitrust lawsuit against Amazon

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may soon launch an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc., according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal today cited sources as saying that the lawsuit could be filed within months. However, the sources added that the timing of the litigation is still subject to change. It’s reportedly possible the FTC will opt not to file a lawsuit.

The Journal’s sources didn’t specify the expected focus of the lawsuit. But they detailed that the FTC has been scrutinizing multiple aspects of Amazon’s business operations in recent years. Among others, FTC officials are said to have evaluated “how it treats outside sellers” on its e-commerce marketplace. 

Amazon’s e-commerce practices have also drawn antitrust scrutiny in the European Union. On Amazon’s marketplace, consumers can browse products from the online retail giant alongside similar merchandise offered by third-party sellers. In 2019, the EU began investigating whether the company may have given its merchandise an edge over third-party sellers’ offerings.

Amazon settled the EU probe last December. As part of the agreement, the company pledged not to use nonpublic data about third-party sellers’ merchandise to benefit its competing products.

According to today’s report, the FTC is also scrutinizing the Amazon Prime membership program. Prime enables consumers to access product discounts, free shipping and other benefits for a fixed monthly fee. The FTC has reportedly been scrutinizing the program’s “bundling practices”, or the way it makes multiple offerings available through a single subscription.

Prime was until recently the focus of an EU antitrust probe much like Amazon’s third-party seller policies. That probe was also settled in December after Amazon pledged to address regulators’ concerns. The EU probe focused not on product bundling practices related to Prime, but rather the way merchandise from third-party sellers is made available through the membership program.

If filed, the lawsuit the FTC could reportedly bring against Amazon would join several existing antitrust cases focused on major tech companies’ business practices.

Last year, the FTC filed a lawsuit to block Meta Platforms Inc. from acquiring Within Unlimited Inc., a Los Angeles-based virtual reality application developer. The agency is also suing Meta for allegedly engaging in unfair business practices to strengthen its market position. The FTC is seeking an injunction that could require Meta to spin off WhatsApp and Instagram. 

In December, FTC sued to block Microsoft Corp. from completing its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion. Activision Blizzard is one of the industry’s largest video game developers by revenue. In the lawsuit, the FTC charges that the acquisition could enable Microsoft to gain an unfair edge over competitors.

Photo: Amazon

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