Amazon refuses to describe search algorithm data – Australian regulator

SYDNEY, April 28 (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) has refused to describe its product search system to an Australian competition regulator who has heard complaints from major marketplace platforms favoring in-house products.

The company’s withholding of information sets the stage for a possible repeat of Australia’s 2021 showdown with Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) Google, which led to those companies paying content royalties to media organizations.

The regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), mentioned Amazon’s position in a report released Thursday that was part of the same five-year review of big tech regulation involving Facebook and Google.

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The ACCC said it surveyed 80 online merchants and nearly half believed that major marketplace platforms skew research and website layout to favor in-house products.

Amazon had told the regulator it did not give advantage to its own products, but “the ACCC requested details of Amazon’s algorithm inputs, which were not provided,” the report said. .

As a result, “ACCC has no information about how Amazon’s algorithms produce search results,” the report said.

Amazon Australia’s director of public policy, Michael Cooley, said in a statement that the company’s offerings were “ones we believe customers will prefer, whether they come from Amazon or one of our partners. sellers”.

“We provide data directly to selling partners to help them manage their business and give them key insights,” he added.

Data provided by Amazon to sellers included “online tools providing data analytics on their own sales, the number of customers viewing the products they sell, and their conversion rates,” Cooley said.

The questionnaire results released with the ACCC report included several comments accusing Amazon of prioritizing its own products. An anonymous respondent wrote, “Amazon products are always listed first, then used products are available in fine print at the bottom of the listing.”

The ACCC noted that unlike other major online retail markets, such as those in the United States and Britain, Australia was not dominated by Amazon. The company only started operations in the country in 2017.

Its sales in the year to June 2021 accounted for just a quarter of the A$5.3 billion ($3.8 billion) generated by eBay Inc (EBAY.O), the ACCC said.

Still, allowing big platforms to give preferential treatment to their own products could influence buying decisions and hurt competition, the regulator said. Platforms should be required to disclose any activity promoting their own products, the report says.

“Hybrid marketplaces, like other vertically integrated digital platforms, face conflicts of interest and can act in ways that benefit their own products with potentially negative effects,” said ACCC President Gina Cass. -Gottlieb, in a statement accompanying the report.

“We are concerned about particular examples of self-preference by hybrid markets in Australia, which reflect similar concerns raised by overseas regulators.”

($1 = 1.4053 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Jaskiran Singh in Bengaluru; Edited by Jan Harvey and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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