Germany to probe whether Amazon influenced prices during the pandemic

"Amazon must not be a controller of prices," the nation's antitrust chief said.

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KOBERN-GONDORF, GERMANY - JUNE 29: Striking Amazon employees stand outside an Amazon warehouse during the coronavirus pandemic on June 29, 2020 in Kobern-Gondorf near Koblenz, Germany. The Verdi labor union has called for strikes at six Amazon warehouse across Germany in order to put pressure on the company over an ongoing disagreement over pay as well as improving workplace conditions to help prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus. Approximately 40 Amazon employees tested positive recently for Covid-19 infection at an Amazon warehouse in Bad Hersfeld. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
Andreas Rentz via Getty Images

Germany has launched a probe into Amazon’s pricing policies with third-party stores on its site, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (paywall), via CNET. “We are currently investigating whether and how Amazon influences how traders set prices on the marketplace,” said Andreas Mundt, the president of the Federal Cartel Office.

In the US, Amazon was accused of charging astronomical prices for things like masks and hand sanitizers early in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Germany’s regulator appears to be focused not on price gouging, but instead on Amazon making prices artificially low. According to Mundt, the probe kicked off after third-party vendors complained that Amazon had blocked them because of high prices. “Amazon must not be a controller of prices,” he said.

Amazon said it’s policies ensure that partners set competitive, but not inflated prices. “Amazon selling partners set their own product prices in our store," a spokesperson told the New York Times in a statement. “Our systems are designed to take action against price gouging.”

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