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France Demands €10m Amazon Fine Over Vendor Contracts

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Amazon abused its e-commerce dominance to tie vendors using its platform into ‘abusive’ contracts, claims the regulator’s lawsuit

Amazon-684x250France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, charging the e-commerce giant abused its dominant position to impose “unfair” conditions on sellers using its platform and demanding a record fine of €10 million (£8.8m).

The complaint with the Paris Commercial Tribunal follows a two-year probe by the consumer regulator DGCCRF in which the agency analysed contracts between vendors and Amazon as well as other major e-commerce players in the country and conducted interviews with those involved, according to a report by daily paper Le Parisien.

The investigation concluded Amazon had made use of its broad competitive lead over other platforms to “impose unfair relations with its vendors”, DGCCRF official Loic Tanguy told the paper.

Amazon has some 3.5 million visitors per day in France, with more than 10,000 businesses registered as vendors.

‘Abusive’ contracts

The US company’s contracts with those sellers include a number of abusive clauses, the regulator argues, including the ability to unilaterally modify contracts at short notice, for instance requiring shorter delivery times, imposing lengthy account verifications during which all sales are blocked or suspending accounts entirely.

The company’s contracts could, in some cases, “push (vendors) into bankruptcy”, said Tanguy, while an unnamed seller said Amazon treats vendors like “ignorant subordinates”.

An unnamed DGCCRF official told Le Parisien the complaint was a “strong and unprecedented act”.

France’s economy ministry confirmed a complaint had been filed against Amazon but didn’t provide further details.

Amazon said the company doesn’t comment on legal proceedings.

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