Italy fines Amazon 1.13B euros for competition abuses

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Italy's antitrust regulator on Thursday fined online retail giant Amazon 1.13 billion euros (1.28 billion U.S. dollars) for competition-related abuses. It is among the biggest antitrust fines ever levied in Europe.

Italy's Competition and Market Guarantor (AGCM) alleged Amazon's Italian subsidiary had used its strong position to force retailers to use its logistics service.

AGCM said Amazon only allowed retailers that signed up for the "Fulfilment by Amazon" logistics service option to use the "Amazon Prime" label.

"Amazon Prime" is the retailer's loyalty program, which increases visibility and boosts sales to its 7 million members.

Amazon told reporters it "strongly disagreed" with the AGCM ruling and would appeal. It called the fine "unjustified and disproportionate."

An Amazon spokesperson told Xinhua that half of the company's annual sales come from small- and medium-sized retailers that do not use the "Fulfilment by Amazon" option.

"We support the growth of the 18,000 [small- and medium-sized retailers] that reach consumers via," the spokesperson said. "That is true for retailers who manage their own shipments or who use our services in that area."

Though Italy's fine against Amazon was unilateral, the AGCM said it had worked closely with the European Commission Directorate-General for Competition to make sure the decision in Italy did not conflict with ongoing investigations into Amazon and other major digital companies on a European Union level.

According to Ruhell Amin, head of global retail equity research for William O'Neil + Company, the fine of more than 1 billion euros was "significant" even for a company the size of Amazon, which has a total market capitalization of 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars according to Macrotrends.

In a television interview, Amin said the biggest concern for Amazon and other major online companies is that Italy's move could be part of a larger trend in more strictly regulating big technology companies.

"We're seeing a broad effort to regulate these companies in Europe," Amin said. "This seems like it could be just the tip of the iceberg."

The fine against Amazon is the second in Italy in less than three weeks. On Nov. 23, AGCM announced it would fine Amazon and Apple over 200 million euros for the way they market Beats-brand headphones. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars)

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