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UK officials close antitrust probes into Amazon’s and Meta’s retail platforms

By Anna Cooban, CNN

London (CNN) — The United Kingdom’s competition watchdog has wrapped up its antitrust investigations into Amazon’s and Meta’s retail platforms, saying it has secured commitments from the US tech giants that will ultimately benefit consumers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced Friday that it had accepted voluntary pledges to “protect fair competition” on Amazon Marketplace, which connects independent sellers with customers, and Facebook Marketplace, which allows users to advertise new and second-hand items for sale. The commitments are to stay in place for the next five years.

In theory, the more businesses are able to fairly compete for consumers’ cash, the more choice consumers ultimately have. That can raise the quality of goods or lower prices, or so the thinking goes.

Ann Pope, the CMA’s senior director for antitrust enforcement, said in a statement that Amazon’s commitments would help thousands of UK sellers to “compete on a level playing field” with the company’s own massive retail arm. That, in turn, will help customers access the “best deals,” the CMA said.

Amazon (AMZN) has promised to give independent sellers a “fair chance” of being spotlighted in its “Buy Box,” the CMA said, a prominently displayed feature that allows customers to quickly buy products or add goods to their baskets.

The e-commerce giant also said it would allow third-party sellers to negotiate their delivery costs for its Prime service directly with independent couriers, according to the watchdog.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNN: “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.”

As for Meta (META), it has promised to not exploit the data of users that advertise on its retail platform. Meta’s competitors will have the option to “opt out” of the tech firm using some of their data to improve Facebook Marketplace, the CMA said.

That commitment, along with others, means Meta “cannot exploit advertising customers’ data to give itself an unfair advantage — and as such distort competition,” Pope said.

A spokesperson for Meta told CNN it welcomed the CMA’s decision to close its investigation into Facebook Marketplace.

The CMA, which launched its probes into Amazon and Meta in 2022 and 2021, respectively, said it would appoint an independent party to ensure both firms complied with the commitments. The pledges did not imply the companies had breached competition law, it added.

Global tech giants have faced mounting scrutiny from regulators in recent years as officials contend that Big Tech monopolies have put scores of smaller businesses at a steep disadvantage.

In September, the US Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon in a landmark case arguing that the company unfairly promotes its own platform and services at the expense of third-party sellers.

On Wednesday, data regulators in the European Union said Meta might soon require consent from its European users to use their data to generate targeted advertisements on Facebook and Instagram.

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