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Italy hits Amazon with €1.1bn fine for ‘abusing’ market dominance

Italian regulators hit Amazon with a 1.1-billion-euro antitrust fine on Thursday for allegedly abusing its dominance in the market, in the latest action against US Big Tech in Europe.

Amazon's logo on the company's premises in Brandizzo, near Turin.
Amazon's logo on the company's premises in Brandizzo, near Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

US technology giants have been in the firing line in many countries within the European Union over their business practices.

In the latest salvo, Italy’s competition watchdog said Amazon abused its dominant position by promoting its own logistics service, which can ship and deliver packages, on its Italian platform to the detriment of third-party
sellers who did not use it.

“The abusive strategy adopted by Amazon is particularly serious, since it is likely to discourage, if not eliminate competition in the relevant markets,” read the 250-page decision by the Italian Competition Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato).

Amazon said it “strongly” disagreed with the decision and would appeal.

OPINION: ‘It’s about connection with people’: Why Amazon won’t (completely) change Italian shopping habits

“The proposed fine and remedies are unjustified and disproportionate,” the company said in a statement.

The move comes two weeks after the same authority imposed a 68.7-million-euro fine on Amazon for infringing EU laws through restrictions that penalised sellers of Apple and Beats products.

In the same action, Apple was ordered to pay 134.5 million euros.

As European countries power ahead with antitrust litigation, US regulators are closely watching its approach to big tech firms after Washington pledged to intensify scrutiny of the technology industry.

The Italian watchdog said Thursday that third-party sellers who do not use Amazon’s logistics service are excluded from “a set of advantages essential for obtaining visibility and better sales prospects”.

Those included better access to Amazon’s “most loyal and high-end customers” who use Amazon Prime, the e-commerce giant’s loyalty program.

An Amazon employee walks by Amazon Prime delivery trucks at the company’s warehouse in Brandizzo, near Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

Moreover, a tough performance measurement system is reserved for sellers who do not use Amazon’s logistics system, which can lead, if failed, to suspension of the seller’s account.

“In doing so, Amazon has harmed competing e-commerce logistics providers by preventing them from presenting themselves to online sellers as service providers of comparable quality to Amazon’s logistics,” said the watchdog, adding that such conduct had “increased the gap between Amazon’s power and that of its competitors”.

In its decision, the authority said it had imposed measures on Amazon subject to review by a monitor.

The company must grant sales privileges and visibility to all third-party sellers who meet fair and non-discriminatory standards for fulfilment, and must decide and publish such standards, it said.

READ ALSO: Italy fines Apple and Samsung millions for ‘deliberately slowing down’ phones

Last month, EU legislation to impose unprecedented restrictions on how US tech giants do business passed a first, significant hurdle, with a European Parliament committee approving their version of the Digital Markets Act.

That would slap far-reaching rules on companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft. 

Such tech companies have been variously accused of stifling competition, not paying enough taxes, stealing media content and threatening democracy by spreading fake news.

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CRIME

Victim’s mother calls for US soldier to be tried in Italy over fatal car crash

The mother of a 15-year-old Italian boy killed after being hit by a car allegedly driven by a US servicewoman is demanding that the case be tried in Italy and not by a US military court.

Victim’s mother calls for US soldier to be tried in Italy over fatal car crash

A US servicewoman was under house arrest after being accused of killing a teenager while driving drunk, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors in Pordenone, in Italy’s far northeast, charged the 20-year-old female soldier stationed at the US Air Force’s Aviano Air Base with vehicular manslaughter Tuesday, defence lawyer Aldo Massarut told AFP.

The woman, named by police as Julia Bravo, is alleged to have been driving a car that hit a 15-year-old boy at around 2.30am on Sunday in the northern Italian town of Porcia, around nine miles from the base.

The victim, Giovanni Zanier, had been standing in a bike lane talking to friends when he was hit by the soldier’s car, according to witnesses. He died on the way to hospital.

Authorities measured the soldier’s alcohol level as 2.09 grams per litre, said Massarut, more than three times the legal limit.

The mother of the teenager told the Corriere della Sera newspaper she was concerned the driver would be allowed to leave the country, and said she wanted the soldier tried in Italy.

“I don’t trust the American justice system,” said Scandella.

“We all know that the soldiers on the Aviano base in this area do what they like, that they don’t respect the rules…,” she said.

“We want her to be tried in Italy and that she be given the sentence she deserves,” she said.

Zanier’s death is being investigated by Italian police, but because a US service member is involved the case could be turned over to military authorities in the United States.

Public prosecutor Raffaele Tito said on Monday that in accordance with “international treaties with regard to the jurisdiction applying to Nato forces stationed in Europe” the Italian justice ministry may decide that the case should be heard in the US.

The driver called for medical assistance immediately after the crash, media reports said.

Corriere della Sera said prosecutors had testimony from a witness who claimed to have seen the soldier leaving a nightclub, and who subsequently saw her driving erratically on the road.

The commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, which is stationed at Aviano, issued a brief statement of condolences to the victim’s family on Tuesday.

“Our wing is working in close collaboration with the Italian base command team and Italian law enforcement agencies, specifically the Carabinieri,” said Brigadier General Tad Clark in the statement.

The US Embassy did not respond to requests for information.

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