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EU to hit Amazon with antitrust charges over treatment of third-party sellers, report says

European Commission officially opened an investigation into the e-commerce giant last year.

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Declan McCullugh/CNET

The European Commission is preparing to file antitrust charges against Amazon over the e-commerce giant's treatment of third-party sellers on its site, according to a report Thursday from The Wall Street Journal.

The EU's Competition Commission, the union's top antitrust regulator, could file official charges as early as next week, according to the Journal. The charges will reportedly accuse Amazon of using data on independent sellers on its platform to launch competing products. 

A spokeswoman for the European Commission declined to comment, adding that its investigation is ongoing. Amazon also declined to comment.

The European Union's antitrust regulators opened an investigation into Amazon in July 2019. The goal is to explore whether the e-commerce giant breached the EU's competition rules with its use of data from independent retailers. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of the EU's competition policy, said at the time that European customers shop online for the selection and pricing.

Vestager has a history of handing out big antitrust fines to US tech giants, with Google being hit particularly hard. More broadly, Europe has a reputation for regulating tech companies more strictly than at home in the US, and has been consistently unafraid of taking them to task.

"We need to ensure that large online platforms don't eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behaviour," Vestager said. "I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules." 

Amazon has said previously that it doesn't use information collected from third-party sellers when developing its own products. However, the Journal reported in April that Amazon scooped up data from third-party sellers to help it determine pricing of its own products, which features to replicate or whether to get involved in a product category.