The attorney general filed a complaint alleging Amazon uses anticompetitive practices to control third-party sellers’ pricing on and off its marketplace. The complaint takes issue with Amazon’s fair pricing policy, which lets Amazon restrict or suspend a product's sales if it finds it’s listed for a “significantly higher” price on Amazon than it is on another site. While this can limit price gouging, it also lets Amazon “sanction” sellers that want to offer lower prices on their own sites or other marketplaces. The complaint requests that the DC Superior Court prevent the etailer from using such practices in the future by means that could include breaking up the company and force it to pay penalties and damages.
Amazon changed its pricing policies in 2019 to limit antitrust concerns, but it doesn’t appear to have escaped scrutiny. Amazon previously enforced a price parity provision that prevented third-party sellers from offering their products at a lower price on other channels in the US until 2019. The provision had faced scrutiny from US government officials—Amazon had already removed the policy in Europe by 2013 after dealing with concerns there—likely prompting the company’s pivot to the fair pricing policy. But this adjustment has not saved the company from legal scrutiny given this suit and the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee calling out its pricing practices in a recent investigation.
A ruling in favor of the complaint would limit Amazon’s capabilities, potentially to the benefit of third-party sellers and competing marketplaces.