After years of investigations, and tensions between the political powers and Amazon, the US competition authority (FTC) and 17 states filed a complaint Tuesday against the tech giant, accusing it of "illegally maintaining its monopoly" through "anti-competitive and unfair strategies".
"It is not Amazon's size that is at issue," the FTC said in a statement, but its "illegal methods that aim to exclude competitors, prevent them from developing and alternatives from emerging."
FTC sues Amazon for illegally maintaining monopoly power: https://t.co/WgMrHiN6VC /1
— FTC (@FTC) September 26, 2023
According to the federal agency, Amazon discourages, for example, sellers from offering lower prices than its own on products where the Seattle group competes with retailers.
The authority also accuses the American giant of conditioning the eligibility of merchants to "Prime" (subscription that allows consumers to be delivered quickly) to the use of Amazon's "expensive" logistics services.
"Amazon is exploiting the power it derives from its monopoly to enrich itself, while driving up prices and degrading service for the tens of millions of American families who shop on its platform and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that depend on Amazon" to market their products, says the FTC chairwoman. Lina Khan, quoted in the statement.
Amazon rejects these accusations
"Today's complaint makes clear that the FTC has radically departed from its mission to protect consumers and competition," David Zapolsky, an Amazon vice president, said in an online statement.
On the contrary, it asserts that the practices questioned by the authority have "helped to stimulate competition and innovation throughout the retail sector, and have made it possible to offer greater choice, lower prices and shorter delivery times to Amazon customers".
The American group, which achieved $ 134.4 billion in turnover and a net profit of $ 6.7 billion in the second quarter of this year, regularly highlights the increase in sales made by merchants on its platform.
In 2022, "more than 60% of sales on Amazon came from independent sellers, which are mostly small and medium-sized businesses," the company said last month. If the FTC wins, it will "force Amazon to implement measures that hurt consumers and small businesses," Zapolsky said.
A balance of power long denounced
But for many NGOs, SMEs suffer from an unfavourable balance of power. "SMEs have been waiting for this moment for a very long time," Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates for local, environmentally friendly consumption, said Tuesday.
"By controlling market access, Amazon can prioritize its own products if it wants, spy on companies by stealing their best ideas and data. It can dictate its law and rule with astonishing contempt. One day, she assigns a seller the 24-hour delivery option. The next day, she suspends her account, completely wiping out her sales." The platform accounts for 37.6% of online sales in the United States according to Insider Intelligence, far ahead of supermarkets Walmart (6.8%), Apple (3.5%) and eBay (3.1%).
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Many US elected officials and the Democratic administration of Joe Biden have been trying for years to fight the "monopolies" of the tech giants, with little success.
Last June, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Amazon for "trapping consumers" with its Prime subscription, which automatically renews and is "complicated" to terminate.
The institution also attacked the group on respect for data confidentiality. Last May, Amazon agreed to pay more than $30 million to end lawsuits against Ring and Alexa (doorbells and smart speakers, security cameras), two product lines that collect a lot of information about their users.