EU hits Amazon with charges over data privacy

Concern over company’s dual role as a platform for third-party vendors and as competition to those same retailers

FILE PHOTO: EU Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference on Broadcom in Brussels, Belgium October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo
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The European Union will bring antitrust charges against Amazon on Tuesday, part of a long-running data privacy battle against the online retail giant and other global tech companies.

It is the latest move in a data privacy clash between US and EU rules. Concern has grown in Europe since the EU's top court struck down an information-transfer pact known as the EU-US Privacy Shield.

The charges filed by Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner who oversees competition, centre on Amazon's dual role as a platform for third-party vendors and as competition to those retailers, two sources told the Financial Times.

The concern is that Amazon may be using data it receives from third party vendors to help its own retailing site.

Ms Vestager has previously secured more than €8 billion ($9.48bn) in fines against Google in antitrust cases, while Apple was ordered to pay €13bn in back taxes to the Irish government. Both companies have appealed.

Amazon has not commented on the current charges. The business is also being investigated in the US, where the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission launched antitrust cases, and in Germany, where the national watchdog launched a probe similar to the EU one.

For independent sellers, Amazon is free to use and it can increase reach hugely, but questions remain over how much of data the companies should surrender in return for access.

As the EU prepared its charges against Amazon, Google said on Tuesday it was buying into OVH, a French cloud company.

From next year, Google’s customers will be able to access its cloud services over Roubaix-based OVH’s physical infrastructure, with a guarantee on where their data is stored.

The deal could give Google a stronger foothold in a European market dominated by Amazon and Microsoft.