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German Cartel Office ups pressure on Amazon to drop price parity policy

German antitrust regulators are set to crack down on a policy of retailer Amazon banning merchants from selling products cheaper on another platform. The Cartel Office finds the policy prevents free market competition.

Regulators were considering imposing an injunction against Amazon in an attempt to force the Internet retail giant to change its business policies, German Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt said on Sunday.

In an interview with the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Mundt said the antitrust authority was currently examining the effects of a price parity clause used by Amazon for merchants on its Marketplace platform. The clause prohibits merchants who sell on the platform from offering their products at a lower price elsewhere.

The Cartel Office was currently in talks with the company to eliminate this barrier to competition, Mundt said, adding that “if necessary, we will issue an injunction against Amazon.”

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In a statement on Monday, Amazon called the announcement surprising, and added that the company had already changed the clause in contracts with German merchants.

For the German competition watchdog, however, the changes appeared not to go far enough, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, as Amazon had offered new terms and conditions only to smaller merchants. The best-price requirement remained in effect for larger merchants, the paper reported.

In his interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Mundt said that he was confident Amazon would scrap the policy because the company could not afford to ignore a ruling by an authority in one of the firm's key markets.

Mundt also announced that his office was weighing similar moves against anti-competitive contractual policies used by the sports gear manufacturers Adidas and Asics, as well as against the online hotel search portal HRS.

uhe/mkg (Reuters, dpa)

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