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Amazon’s offer to end EU antitrust probe is full of loopholes, NGOs say

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Amazon’s proposal to halt certain online selling and marketing practices in a bid to avert possible hefty EU antitrust fines should be rejected because it is weak and full of loopholes, a group of 11 non-governmental bodies have told EU regulators.

The criticism from the group, which includes LobbyControl, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour and the European Public Services Union, echoed those from pan-European consumer group BEUC last week.

“They are weak, vague and full of loopholes, leaving too much room for evasion and abuse by Amazon. Moreover, the proposed limitation of these commitments to five years, or indeed any time horizon at all, is unjustifiable,” the group said in a statement.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NGO group urged the European Commission to force Amazon to split its marketplace from its retail and logistics operations in order to address concerns about its dominance and control over interrelated services.

It said the offer also falls short of tougher requirements imposed on digital gatekeepers under landmark tech rules that will go into effect next year.

Amazon should agree not to access sellers’ data and not just to stop using it while the effectiveness of a second buy box on its website should be tested by independent researchers, BEUC legal and economic affairs director Agustin Reyna told Reuters.

The Commission had given third parties until Sept. 9 to provide feedback to Amazon’s offer which includes a pledge to refrain from using sellers’ data for its own competing retail business and its private label products.

The U.S. online retail giant said it will treat sellers equally when ranking their offers for the “buy box” on its website that generates the bulk of its sales.

It will also set up a second buy box for a rival product if it differs substantially in price and delivery from the product in the first box.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by David Evans)

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