Amazon in antitrust crosshairs over Marketplace price rules

The company reportedly requires merchants to not offer a product available on its site for cheaper elsewhere. German regulators want to know more about that practice.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger

Amazon's in a bit of trouble in Germany.

The country's Federal Cartel Office (FCO) announced yesterday that it's launching an antitrust investigation against Amazon to determine if the e-commerce company is unfairly treating third-party merchants that sell their products through its Marketplace platform.

According to BBC, which spoke with FCO chief Andreas Mundt, the organization is specifically trying to determine whether a clause that Amazon places on merchants limiting them from offering a product they sell through Marketplace at a cheaper price on competing sites, violates the country's antitrust clauses.

"This is particularly the case if restricting a trader's price-setting freedom also hampers competition between different internet market places," Mundt told BBC.

Those other marketplaces might be led by eBay. In many cases, individual merchants selling products through Amazon's Marketplace also sell them on eBay. It's not clear whether competing marketplaces, like eBay, will chime in on the case.

CNET has contacted Amazon for comment on the investigation. We will update this story when we have more information.