How do you say Amazon in Italian? Monopolist
Regulators in Italy, France and Germany are increasing fines on Big Tech for violating antitrust and privacy laws before the upcoming EU digital markets law risks diluting their authority.
The punishment was surprising, both in its magnitude and where it was inflicted. Italy’s competition watchdog recently fined Amazon 1.13 billion euros ($1.28 billion) for allegedly privileging sellers who use the company’s logistics services. Shortly before, Italian regulators imposed a series of multimillion-euro fines on Apple, Google and Facebook last year.
The message was clear: it’s not just Brussels that is cracking down on American Big Tech. It is also Rome, Berlin and Paris. In part, European national regulators seem driven by a genuine desire to prevent abuse in their markets. In part, they’re telling Brussels they want to continue to play a key role as Europe rolls out its new Digital Markets Act (DMA).
The DMA defines certain online service providers as “gatekeepers”, controlling access to specific markets. It lists a series of do’s and don’ts for them. Under the current scope being debated in Brussels, most if not all of the “gatekeepers” would be US companies that run online marketplaces, app stores, online search engines, social networks and services. cloud. Their mergers and acquisitions will be subject to further scrutiny. According to the draft DMA text, these large platforms enjoy an “entrenched and enduring position, often due to the creation of conglomerate ecosystems around their core platform services, which reinforce existing barriers to entry. “.
Although European leaders have agreed on a general framework for DMA, it is now up to them, the European Parliament and the European Commission, to work out the details. In particular, it remains to be seen how enforcement will be split between the European Commission and national regulators.
Companies fear being subjected to 27 different interpretations of the new rules. Pro-Brussels advocates insist they can provide a consistent, consistent single application and can avoid the issues that have emerged in recent years over the landmark GDPR privacy law. The GDPR has given Ireland and Luxembourg, home to the European headquarters of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, responsibility for enforcement – and few investigations have taken place.
National authorities in major European countries respond that Brussels itself has often been too slow – it launched an antitrust investigation into Google in 2009, which is still the subject of a lawsuit in European courts. And national officials believe they have the expertise to impose effective sanctions.
The German Cartel Office announced earlier this month that it was investigating potentially anti-competitive practices related to Google’s processing of personal data. The Cartel Office, or Bundeskartellamtis holding consultations with the search engine giant to discuss competition issues related to Google News.
Google said in a statement that it is “committed to making further changes and actively working with the CNIL in light of this decision.” Facebook said it was reviewing the decision and stressed that users can review and manage their data controls at any time.
In Italy, the Amazon fine represents a turning point. There is the amount – 1.13 billion euros with a “b”. And there’s the precedent, for the first time targeting Amazon’s business model of bundling its extensive logistics network and online marketplace to gain an advantage over competitors.
the Authority Guarantor of the Concorrenza and Mercato, or AGCM, accused Amazon of providing unauthorized benefits to sellers who used the Amazon Logistics platform. These sellers received unfair benefits such as better visibility, higher search rankings, and better access to consumers through the Amazon Prime program and the coveted “Buy Box.”
In addition to paying the fine, Amazon must define and publish a set of standards that make a seller eligible for Amazon Prime. The company must then “extend all privileges in terms of sales and visibility on the platform to all third-party suppliers who meet the standards,” said the AGCM.
About a year after Italy announced its investigation into Amazon’s logistics practices, the European Commission informed Amazon that it had also reached a preliminary conclusion that the “Buy Box” and the Prime label had violated EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in e-commerce. But he has not yet announced a final judgment or sanction.
Amazon sued to try to stop the parallel investigations, but the European Court of Justice ruled in October that the two could continue.
Amazon reportedly intends to appeal the Italian fine. “The proposed fine and reparations are unjustified and disproportionate,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
Europe’s intention to impose strict regulations on US Big Tech has long been clear. But what remains unclear is whether it will impose a single continent-wide enforcement mechanism or whether companies will have to manage risk on a country-by-country basis. It’s a giant question. The answer will go a long way in determining whether the continent will ever create a unified digital single market.
Janna Brancolini is an American journalist and lawyer based in Milan, where she covers environmental and financial policy in Europe for Bloomberg and all things Italian for the Los Angeles Times.