In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily newspaper in Frankfurt Germany, Andreas Mundt, President of Germany’s Federal Government anti-trust authority, revealed his office is investigating Amazon’s role in controlling prices by third-party marketplace sellers on its online commerce platform during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The German anti-trust authority is reviewing reports if Amazon kept sellers from listing items on its site that may have included overly high prices, therefore, controlling the pricing that traders set on its platform.
Amazon Cannot Be The Controller Of Prices
“Amazon cannot be the controller of prices,” Mundt is quoted in the newspaper interview and both German and EU laws generally take a very dim view of price controls.
Amazon defended its position in a statement to Reuters, “Amazon selling partners set their own product prices in our store,” a company spokeswoman said. “Our systems are designed to take action against price gouging, and those who had concerns should contact its support team for its merchants.”
Effectively, Amazon is claiming they took the middle ground that they are not controlling prices, but will also not allow price gouging on its platform, even if such higher prices would be allowed under the law.
Amazon Continues To Face Antitrust Questions
The irony of the new German investigation is that Amazon and other online marketplaces in the U.S. came under fire from numerous State Attorney General offices for allowing third-party marketplace sellers to list items at prices that the SAGs claimed resulted in price gouging during the early weeks of the pandemic. Seemingly a contradictory concern.
The minefield of antitrust laws continues to follow Amazon here and abroad. Just last year, the company settled with the German antitrust authority on the use of merchant data, just to fall under investigation immediately by the European Commission for the same allegation.
And last month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended his company in front of the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law about the company’s size and practices.
“The global retail market we compete in is strikingly large and extraordinarily competitive. Amazon accounts for less than 1 percent of the $25 trillion global retail market and less than 4 percent of retail in the U.S. Unlike industries that are winner-take-all, there’s room in retail for many winners,” he said.