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Amazon hit with antitrust lawsuit — what you need to know

Amazon
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Amazon could be facing a lawsuit that has the whiff of Epic vs. Apple about it. Washington DC’s Attorney General has launched an antitrust suit against the company over claims it stifles competition in its Marketplace, the Amazon division responsible for allowing third-party sellers access to its platform. 

At the center of the lawsuit is the claim that Amazon makes unreasonable demands of third-party sellers on the platform. That includes restricting sellers from offering their products on alternative sites, for a lower price — echoing one of Epic’s claims against Apple. This, claims Attorney General Karl Racine, results in the loss of competition and in less innovation. 

The Verge has a link to the court filing which includes the following claim: “Amazon’s online retail sales platform benefits from, and is protected by, Amazon’s anticompetitive business practices. Far from enabling consumers to obtain the best products at the lowest prices, Amazon instead causes prices across the entire online retail sales market to be artificially inflated, both for products sold on Amazon’s online retail sales platform and on its competitors’ online retail sales platforms.”

Racine is seeking structural remedies — forcing Amazon to change its rules — that would end the pricing restrictions. He’s also seeking to recover damages to curb additional anti-competitive conduct. 

The suit claims that Amazon is responsible for around 50 to 70% of all online retail sales in the U.S., remarkably beating companies like Walmart and eBay. It also notes that in 2019 Amazon changed the rules on third-party sellers, which had required that price parity. The removal came following concerns from the government, but it was then replaced by a near-identical fair pricing policy that enforced very similar restrictions on sellers. 

Amazon was also challenged in UK and German courts over the policy in 2013. However, the company opted to simply withdraw those rules for European stores, leaving it in place for the U.S. and other regions. 

Amazon has yet to comment on this lawsuit, but we will update this article should the company issue a response.

A tech journalist with many years of experience, Ian got his start writing about the battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray. Technology might have moved on, but there's still plenty of skirmishes to report on.