On 20 February 2013, the Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) initiated a survey of 2,400 sellers who sell their products through Amazon Marketplace in Germany. The FCO is investigating the effect of a price parity clause which prohibits sellers who offer any products on Amazon Marketplace selling them at a cheaper price on any other internet platform (e.g. Ebay) or on the sellers' own online shops.
The FCO’s President, Andreas Mundt, stated that the price parity clause could potentially violate the general ban on cartels, depriving sellers of the freedom of selling a product cheaper via websites other than Amazon.
He considers that this may also have the potential to restrict competition between the different web based market places as, even if the market place offers lower fees to the seller, those lower fees cannot be reflected in more favourable prices to the customers on the platform.
This may make it difficult for other internet market places, particularly new or emerging companies, to compete with Amazon. According to the FCO, there is therefore a risk that Amazon’s price parity clause could generate a higher price level without producing sufficient benefits for consumers.
The FCO specifies that, if its survey confirms that the price parity clause has a detrimental effect on competition, Amazon will be required to delete it from its terms and conditions.