Amazon refuses to describe search algorithm data – Australian regulator

The Amazon logo is seen at the company’s logistics center in Bretigny-sur-Orge, near Paris, France, on December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

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SYDNEY, Apr 28 (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) declined to describe its product search system to an Australian competition regulator that has heard complaints from major marketplace platforms favoring domestic products.

The company’s retention of the information sets the stage for a possible repeat of Australia’s 2021 showdown with Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), which resulted in the payment of content royalties to the company. media.

The regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), cited Amazon’s stance in a report released on Thursday that was part of the same five-year review of big tech regulation that involved Facebook and Google.

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ACCC said in the report that it surveyed 80 online merchants and that nearly half believe that major marketplace platforms skew searches and site presentation to favor in-house products.

Amazon had told the regulator that it did not give its own products an advantage, but “ACCC sought details about inputs from Amazon’s algorithms, which were not provided,” the report said.

As a result, “ACCC has no information on how Amazon’s algorithms produce search results,” the report said.

An Amazon representative was not immediately available for comment.

The survey results published with the report included several comments accusing Amazon of preferring its own products. An unnamed respondent wrote, “Amazon products are always listed first, then second-hand products are available in small print at the bottom of the listing.”

The ACCC noted that, unlike other major online retail markets such as those in the United States and Britain, Australia’s was not dominated by Amazon. The company only started operations in the country in 2017.

Its sales for the year to June 2021 were just a quarter of the A$5.3 billion ($3.8 billion) generated by eBay Inc (EBAY.O), the ACCC said.

Still, the regulator said allowing major platforms to give preferential treatment to their own products could influence purchasing decisions and harm competition. Platforms should be required to disclose any activities that favor their own products, it said in the report.

“Hybrid markets, like other vertically integrated digital platforms, face conflicts of interest and may act in ways that benefit their own products with potentially adverse effects,” ACCC President Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement accompanying the report.

“We have concerns about particular examples of self-preference for hybrid markets in Australia, which reflect similar concerns raised by foreign regulators.”

(US$1 = 1.4053 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Jaskiran Singh in Bengaluru

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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