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Amazon Settles German Antitrust Probe Ahead of EU Battle

Amazon.com Inc. struck a deal with Germany and Austria to shut down antitrust probes into how it handles other merchants on its site, just as it faces a bigger European Union investigation into its use of sellers’ data.

The U.S. retail giant will change its business services agreement worldwide in mid-August to address a number of complaints from sellers, the German Federal Cartel Office said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.“We have obtained far-reaching improvements for sellers active on Amazon marketplaces worldwide,” Andreas Mundt, president of the German regulator, said in the statement. “The proceedings are now terminated.”Amazon’s troubles in Europe are only just beginning even as those two probes end. The company faces a full-blown EU antitrust investigation that could be announced as soon as this week. That targets Amazon’s online business model as a host to many smaller retailers in an inquiry that could also affect other tech giants.The EU has been asking how Amazon might use data it collects from sellers on its Marketplace platform, such as seeing what products do well, and whether Amazon uses that data advantage to launch similar items.

Amazon said it will make changes to its Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement from Aug. 16 to address issues raised by the German and Austrian regulators. Those probes targeted terms of business, liability provisions, contract clauses on where sellers could sue the company and the process of blocking and closing sellers’ accounts. Amazon’s rules on returns and reimbursements for customers will be unchanged, the German Cartel Office said.

Amazon is also promising to roll out its Vine rating program to marketplace sellers who own a brand name registered with Amazon, the Cartel Office said. This is a response to sellers’ complaints that Amazon prefers its own sales as a retailer because it removes product reviews from external providers. Amazon argued that it’s acting against a considerable risk of fake reviews, the office said.

Reporting by Stephanie Bodoni and Aoife White with assistance from Matthias Wabl.