Margrethe Vestager

The European Union (EU) has taken a tough stance against tech companies. Through the European Commission regulatory body, tech giants have been targeted for privacy and competition infringements. Now, the EU is hunting Amazon, the biggest online retailer and cloud infrastructure provider.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, has announced an investigation into Amazon’s use of data. Specifically, how the online platform collects merchant data. The Commission says the probe will decide whether the company has broken any of its antitrust regulations.

Any violations are likely to be met with a hefty penalty considering the EU’s previous punishments for other companies.

Vestager held a press conference to announce the investigation. She highlighted the probe is just starting and is not even formal. In fact, the fact the commissioner went public suggests the EU may be sending Amazon a veiled threat to get its data house in order:

“We are gathering information on the issue and we have sent quite a number of questionnaires to market participants in order to understand this issue in full. These are very early days and we have no conclusions, we haven’t formally opened a case. We are trying to make sure that we sort of get the full picture because we saw it in our own sector inquiry and this is also what a lot of people are talking about by now, so we do the follow-up.”

Vestager says the European Commission wants to know if Amazon is using third-party data in its own algorithms. Doing so would allow the company to better understand what products to advertise to customers. That would be a breach in the EU’s antitrust laws.

Clamping Down

Europe is becoming one of the toughest markets for tech companies. The continent employs strict antitrust regulations and is particularly concerned by the practises of companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon.

Indeed, all of these companies have fallen foul of EU laws at some point, often resulting in harsh penalties. From Apple’s tax problems and Microsoft Windows privacy practices to Google’s record fines for stifling competition, Europe is somewhere tech giants are being forced to adhere to laws.