German antitrust regulators launch inquiry into Amazon pricing policy

German antitrust authorities are looking into an Amazon policy that treats third-party retailers unfairly.

A clause in the pricing policy stipulates that vendors participating in the Amazon Marketplace program may not sell products at a cheaper price elsewhere, including on their own web stores. The practice may be violating German antitrust rules, said the Federal Cartel Office.

"Amazon's price parity clause - which denies traders the freedom of offering a product cheaper elsewhere - may breach general cartel rules," said Andreas Mundt, head of the FCO.

"This is particularly the case if restricting a trader's price-setting freedom also hampers competition between different internet market places."

Regulators will question 2,400 traders who sell goods to Amazon customers through the Marketplace platform. If the investigation concludes that the online retailer’s pricing policy breaches antitrust laws, officials could force Amazon to drop the clause altogether.

The inquiry comes after a group of independent US retailers filed a lawsuit against Amazon and its publishing partners alleging a deliberate monopoly on the sale of eBooks in the US.

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