Amazon Settles With German Regulators

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has reached a settlement with Germany and Austria to end antitrust probes into how it does business with other merchants on its site. Under the terms of the settlement, Amazon will be changing its Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement worldwide on August 16. Andreas Mundt, president of the German Federal Cartel Office, said in a statement, “We have obtained far-reaching improvements for sellers active on Amazon marketplaces worldwide. The proceedings are now terminated.”

The issues raised by the German and Austrian regulators revolved around Amazon’s terms of business, liability provisions, specific contract clauses, and the process of blocking and closing sellers’ accounts. They came as a response to complaints from third-party merchants who complained of unfair treatment when selling through the company’s platform. The investigation has been going on for seven months.

Some of the most important changes noted for merchants selling on Amazon involve the way Amazon chooses to end their relationships. Currently, Amazon can block a seller and remove them from the platform without warning or explanation. Under the new agreement, it will now give 30-days’ notice, and a reason for, the merchant’s removal. Other changes cover product descriptions, fairer presentation of customer reviews, and ways to appeal certain decisions made by Amazon.

The changes to Amazon’s Business Services Agreement would also apply to its country sites in Britain, France, Italy and Spain, and the United States. The changes apply to its operations in Asia as well.

Amazon was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, now considered one of the richest people in the world. Today, the company commands a market valuation of nearly $1 trillion. Germany is Amazon’s No. 2 market after the United States, hosting 300,000 merchants on Amazon.de, the company’s German site. The site is by far the biggest of Amazon’s European sites, earning 20 billion euros last year.