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German regulators investigate Amazon pricing policies

German regulators investigate Amazon pricing policies
An employee is seen at the Amazon logistic and distribution center in Moenchengladbach, Germany, on December 17, 2019. File Photo by Friedemann Vogel/EPA-EFE

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Antitrust regulators in Germany are investigating complaints that Amazon is unfairly leveraging its dominant position in the e-commerce market to affect pricing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Andreas Mundt, president of Germany's Federal Cartel Office, said in a newspaper interview Sunday he's looking into accusations that Amazon is using its powerful position to manipulate how third-party merchants price their merchandise on its digital platform and blocking those deemed to be price gouging during the health crisis.

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"We are currently investigating whether and how Amazon influences retailers' pricing on the marketplace," Mundt told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Amazon must not be a controller of prices."

The U.S. tech giant responded to the concerns with written responses, the German regulator told CNBC.

Amazon said Sunday that vendors are free to set their own product prices, but that it has policies to "help ensure selling partners are pricing their products competitively."

The platform is the largest online marketplace in Germany. In 2018, more than 300,000 third-party sellers were active on the marketplace -- about 60% were German sellers.

The Cartel Office last year conducted separate, months-long investigations of complaints that Amazon was preventing third-party sellers from charging more on its platform than elsewhere online.

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That investigation resulted in an agreement calling for Amazon to change its terms of service for third-party merchants.

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