Apple and Amazon Face Antitrust Scrutiny in Germany Over ‘Brandgating’

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Apple and Amazon are set to face antitrust scrutiny in Germany over a policy that forbids independent sellers from retailing Apple products on Amazon, Bloomberg reports.

Germany’s antitrust regulator, the Federal Cartel Office, has launched a probe into Apple and Amazon over the policy of “brandgating.” The policy allows the makers of branded products, such as the iPhone, to have independent sellers removed from the retail platform, providing Amazon can sell the items instead.

“Brandgating agreements can help to protect against product piracy,” the Cartel Office said in a statement. “But such measures must be proportionate to be in line with antitrust rules and may not result in eliminating competition.”

Amazon responded, saying it never removes the sales permissions of sellers without sound reasons, and it invests heavily to protect customers from the illegal distribution of goods. The company has agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

The Cartel Office said that Apple is a “prominent” example of how Amazon conducts brandgating, which can purportedly take various forms. Amazon has only permitted Apple authorized vendors to sell Apple products on its platform since 2019. Amazon simultaneously became an Apple authorized vendor.

“The safety of our customers is our first priority, and our teams are constantly working with law enforcement, resellers, and e-commerce sites around the world to remove counterfeit products from the market,” Apple said in a statement. “We work with Amazon to protect our customers from counterfeit products and provide confidence they are receiving a genuine Apple product out of the box.”

The two companies have been investigated for similar accusations in the past, such as allegedly blocking the sale of Apple and Beats devices from resellers in order to stifle competition and fix prices.

Apple and Amazon are among the big tech companies under scrutiny around the world, particularly in the European Union, where a new Digital Services Act is poised to hit big tech with wide-reaching regulations.

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