Amazon Challenges EU ‘Gatekeeper’ Designation

Image credit: Amazon

E-commerce giant Amazon pushes back against European listing it as an online gatekeeper, subjecting it to new laws

Amazon is refusing to accept a designation from European officials, that ranks it alongside other major tech platforms such as Apple, Meta Platforms, and Twitter.

Under last year’s EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), any tech platform or search engine that has more than 45 million users per month in the EU, is classified as a very large online platforms (VLOP) or very large online search engines (VLOSE).

In April 2023, the European Commission published the names of 19 platforms that will face the strictest level of regulation under the Digital Services Act (DSA), naming 19 so called ‘Gatekeeper’ firms.

Image credit: European Commission
Image credit: European Commission

Gatekeeper firms

The European Commission specified the following were Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPS):

  • Alibaba AliExpress;
  • Amazon Store;
  • Apple AppStore;
  • Facebook;
  • Google Play;
  • Google Maps;
  • Google Shopping;
  • Instagram;
  • LinkedIn;
  • Pinterest;
  • Snapchat;
  • TikTok;
  • Twitter;
  • Wikipedia;
  • YouTube;
  • Zalando.

It also named the following as Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs):

  • Bing;
  • Google Search.

The EU therefore considers these large platforms and search engines as ‘gatekeepers’, which are systemically relevant and therefore have special responsibilities in making the Internet a safe and trustworthy space.

This VLOP designation requires companies to do more to tackle illegal online content.

Amazon complaint

But Amazon is not happy with this designation, and Reuters reported it has launched a legal challenge against its inclusion in this group of companies.

Amazon filed its challenge at the Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe’s second highest court, and is the first challenge from a big name tech player, after German online retailer Zalando sued the European Commission over the same issue in June.

This filing could potentially trigger complaints from other tech platforms.

“If the VLOP designation were to be applied to Amazon and not to other large retailers across the EU, Amazon would be unfairly singled out and forced to meet onerous administrative obligations that don’t benefit EU consumers,” an Amazon spokesperson was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The e-commerce giant said it is not the largest retailer in any of the EU countries where it operates and that its bigger rivals in these countries have not been designated as such.

“Amazon doesn’t fit this description of a ‘Very Large Online Platform’ under the DSA and therefore should not be designated as such,” the Amazon spokesperson reportedly said.

The company asked the General Court to annul its designation.

The EU executive did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

In July 2022 the European Parliament had passed the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The DSA aims to make the biggest platforms more accountable for the information they present online, while the DMA sets obligations for large platforms on the digital market to prevent unfair business practices.

Companies face fines of up to 10 percent of annual global turnover for DMA violations and 6 percent for contravening the DSA.

Tech companies had lobbied vigorously against the rules, with Apple warning they would open a “Pandora’s box”.