Amazon logo on a company-owned bookstore in New York
Photo: REUTERS / Brendan McDermid
Despite various antitrust proceedings already underway, Amazon's power is unbroken or even greater. Small and medium-sized enterprises in the European Union are becoming more and more dependent on the "marketplace" offer of the dominant online retailer. This is shown by an analysis by the Dutch organization Somo, which will be published next week.
From 2017 to 2022, Amazon's revenues from fee money from independent European retailers tripled from 7.6 to 23.5 billion euros. Among other things, they pay to be listed on the platform, some also for storage and shipping of their products by Amazon. In addition, the advertising revenues of European retailers who want to increase their visibility on the platform have "exploded" – from 300 million euros in 2017 to 5.4 billion in 2021. In Germany alone, retail partners' advertising investments rose from 100 million to 2.1 billion euros during this period, according to Somo.
»A structural monopoly with numerous conflicts of interest«
Amazon has also steadily increased its fee revenue from merchants, which reduces their margins. Smaller retailers are increasingly in a "stranglehold" and are being "squeezed out," the report says. Somo analysed annual reports and documents from ongoing investigations against the group, and employees also conducted interviews with selected dealers.
"They told us that, despite the increasingly unfavorable conditions, they had to be represented on the platform in order to reach their customers," says Somo representative Margarida Silva. It is "a structural monopoly with numerous conflicts of interest", the dual role of seller and marketplace operator must be unbundled.
Two proceedings against the group are currently underway at the Bundeskartellamt. Amazon has contradicted its classification as a "company of paramount cross-market importance", and the Federal Court of Justice must now decide on this. In the past, Amazon had already changed its contractual clauses for trading partners under pressure from the antitrust office. In proceedings initiated in 2019 by the EU competition watchdogs, who had scrutinized several of Amazon's business practices, the company also made concessions last year – which were approved by the EU Commission last December.
When asked by SPIEGEL, Amazon rejected the assessment that it had a monopoly. The market is "very large and extraordinarily competitive". The growth in sales with European retailers can be explained by their sales success: in 2021 alone, they sold 2.2 billion products worldwide. "Our selling partners account for about 60 percent of items sold on Amazon, and we are proud that their sales are growing faster than Amazon's own sales," a spokeswoman said. In addition, the company is investing "more than ever to support the growth of our sales partners".