Brits make Amazon, Meta stop using third-party data to undercut rivals

Watchdog on a tear to level the playing field

Amazon and Meta have agreed to not use data collected from their marketplaces to unfairly benefit themselves, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority announced on Friday.

The monopoly watchdog launched separate investigations into both internet giants' business practices, and accused the Big Tech duo of not only gathering up information about sellers using their respective online souks, they also - surprise, surprise - exploited that info to get a commercial advantage.

In Amazon's case, the e-commerce giant used vendors' sales figures to decide which items it should sell, and how much to price products to get an edge over everyone else. The internet behemoth also promoted its own products with its Buy Box feature and it further cut into retailers' margins by charging extra costs if they wanted to use Amazon's Prime delivery services, the CMA said. 

Now Amazon has committed to doing less of that. The CMA said the online souk will be prevented from using third-party seller data that gives it an unfair commercial advantage, and will allow rivals to negotiate rates with independent delivery contractors working on behalf of Amazon. 

Merchants' items will also be better supported by the Buy Box too, according to the CMA, instead of Amazon-led products or those from sellers that have bought into the company's packing and delivery services. 

"We have engaged constructively with the CMA and we welcome this resolution which will preserve our ability to serve both our customers and the over 100,000 small and medium-sized businesses selling through our UK store," a spokesperson for Amazon told The Register in a statement.

Amazon also promised to appoint a neutral "independent trustee" that will have to be approved by British officials to assess its compliance with the aforementioned agreements.

Meanwhile, similar agreements have been negotiated between the CMA and Facebook's parent biz Meta too. 

The social media mega-corp was accused of exploiting advertisers hawking wares on Facebook Marketplace, and using competitors' data to improve its own products or services. 

"Going forward, competitors of Facebook Marketplace that advertise on Meta platforms can 'opt out' of their data being used to improve Facebook Marketplace. Without these measures in place, Meta risks having an unfair competitive advantage that could distort competition," the CMA said.

"Having assessed the commitments and the feedback received, including from sellers, advertisers and customers, we believe both sets of commitments address the specific competition concerns we had here in the UK," Ann Pope, the watchdog's senior director for antitrust enforcement, concluded.

The Register has asked Meta for comment. ®

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