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FTC v Amazon Antitrust Trial Scheduled for October 2026

Report from Bloomberg

In Brief – Federal Judge John Chun has set October 13, 2026, as the date to begin the antitrust trial pitting the Federal Trade Commission against Amazon. The case will be heard in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. The FTC sued Amazon in September alleging anticompetitive practices that harmed consumers and the small business sellers who use Amazon’s massive online marketplace. The regulator contends that Amazon pushes sellers to raise the prices they offer on other websites to match the higher prices they set on Amazon to account for high Amazon fees, creating an elevated virtual price floor on the internet. Amazon moved for Judge Chun to dismiss the case in December, but the judge's schedule for quarterly status conferences through the trial date doesn’t address a ruling on the motion to dismiss.

Context – Regulators have had a tough time focusing on Amazon given the kaleidoscope of their interconnected services. However, the links between Amazon’s massive logistics business, their treatment of third-party marketplace sellers, and how Amazon’s algorithms influence who makes sales, are increasingly getting the most attention. This is because Amazon commissions on third-party sellers often approach 50% due to high logistics fees, and Marketplace algorithms reward sellers who buy Amazon logistics to the point that most sellers recognize that it is necessary to make meaningful sales. In the EU and UK, Amazon has settled antitrust investigations by promising to break that link. The FTC’s lawsuit also alleges that Amazon unfairly preferences sellers who buy Amazon logistics and penalizes sellers who offer lower prices elsewhere, even when lower logistics costs would allow lower prices. Those “price fixing” complaints are largely contingent on Amazon being such a dominant platform for small online retailers that sellers cannot afford to forgo sales on Amazon, and instead raise prices elsewhere to protect sales on the giant's marketplace. A similar private antitrust suit and one from the California Attorney General have survived Amazon's motions to dismiss. It looks like Judge Chen sees the FTC’s doing so as well.

Canadian Legal Panel Determines that Air Canada is Responsible for Its Chatbot

Report from the Washington Post

In Brief – The Civil Resolution Tribunal of British Columbia has ordered Air Canada to stand behind the information provided to a customer by the chatbot on its website despite the information being incorrect. The customer, Jake Moffatt, who lived in British Columbia, interacted with the chatbot in November 2022 and purchased tickets to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Ontario. He later filed for a partial refund amounting to over $800 CAD based on the Air Canada bereavement policy as explained by the chatbot. However, the airline rejected the claim because the chatbot was wrong and the company website page describing the bereavement rules showed that the process the customer followed did not qualify. The civil dispute resolution panel sided with the customer and rejected the company’s argument that the chatbot was an independent agent separate from the company, instead describing the chatbot as just another part of the company’s website, which the company is responsible for. The panel likewise rejected the argument that it is the responsibility of the customer to determine which part of the company’s website, the chatbot or the bereavement page, was accurate.

Context – To be clear, this civil dispute resolution panel decision lacks the depth of many judicial rulings. Air Canada did not even provide the panel a detailed description of the technology behind its chatbot, instead arguing that the company was not responsible for incorrect information given out by its agents, human or digital. However, as more customer service chatbots become AI-enabled, the case is a helpful datapoint. A key learning since the release of ChatGPT is that generative AI chatbots are designed to compile realistic sounding responses to queries. They often deliver accurate facts and credible ideas, but they also get things wrong. We’ve now heard plenty about chatbot “hallucinations”, which are realistic-sounding fabrications, such as those that peppered a ChatGPT-prepared legal brief that led to two lawyers being sanctioned in US District Court, or fuel chatbot defamation liability questions. Pro Tip: Check your AI-enabled work.

Mexican Antitrust Authority Calls for Amazon and Mercado Libre Changes

Report from Fortune

In Brief – The Mexican competition authority (COFECE) has issued a preliminary report on the country's ecommerce market that identifies barriers to competition and calls on market leaders Mercado Libre and Amazon to make changes. COFECE says the two ecommerce giants hold a combined 85% share of the market, and their dominance is harming consumers and small businesses that sell in their marketplaces. The regulator proposes that the platforms change a range of policies that are reinforcing barriers to competition, including separating video streaming from online shopping loyalty programs such as Prime, increasing transparency in marketplace algorithms so that sellers better understand how products are selected and ranked in search results, and ending the preferences given to products from sellers who use the company’s own logistics services. The regulator is also calling on the two companies to enhance transparency about their own logistics standards so third-party logistics services can better integrate into their platforms. COFECE plans to issue a final report to the government in six months which could be used as the basis for more formal antitrust action.

Context – Amazon is a complex conglomerate with digital services, hardware divisions, loss leaders that drive super-valuable Prime subscriptions, their original first-party retail business that is giant but has low margins, a third-party marketplace that is larger with much higher margins, and a unique and massive logistics business that is their biggest moat. Regulators have had a tough time understanding and focusing. Even FTC Chair Lina Khan, who made her name breaking down the Amazon business, was slow shifting the focus from first party retail to their third-party marketplace and logistics. The COFECE report follows the trend of homing in on links between marketplace ranking algorithms and company logistics services like the EU and UK have done with Amazon. This is also part of the FTC’s antitrust suit targeting Amazon that will take years to resolve. The Mexican regulator is breaking ground with their call for streaming video to be pulled out of shopping loyalty programs.

EU Report Calls Out Lack of "Influencer" Transparency Around Sponsorships

Report from Reuters

In Brief – The European Commission and the consumer protection regulators of 22 EU member states, Norway, and Iceland released the results of a review of top online influencers in Europe claiming that only 20% properly disclose commercial content as advertising as required under EU law. Ninety-seven percent of the 576 influencers screened for the study posted commercial content on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, X, Snapchat, and Twitch. More than three-quarters of them were engaged in a level of commercial activity warranting registering as a business, but only 36% did so. Most failed to provide company details on their posts, use the labels and other offerings provided by the platforms to identify commercial content, or make their sponsorship disclosures visible in the manner required. Nearly half of the influencers operated their own websites, with many engaged in direct online commerce. The review is part of an effort to promote compliance with EU consumer law by online influencers, and 358 of them are earmarked for follow-up by national authorities to request that they appropriately comply with regulatory duties and take additional action if necessary. The Commission will also analyze the results in light of the legal obligations the largest platforms have under the Digital Services Act.

Context – In 2023, the global social media influencer industry was valued at $21.1 billion. The US FTC released updated online “Endorsement Guidelines” last June and is pursuing regulations on unfair and deceptive practices in digital marketing. The UK CMA updated its influencer guidance in late 2022 and the draft UK Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill includes a section on fake online reviews. The Commission launched an Influencer Legal Hub in 2023 providing information to help with legal compliance in the EU. And France has been most aggressive, enacting legislation last year to prohibit influencers from promoting some highly objectionable practices and heavily regulating others, while requiring influencers to adopt business practices such as holding liability insurance.

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Platform Economy Insights aims to provide small-to-mid-sized digital platform business leaders, investors and firms that support industry growth, and public officials, staff and media who track the platform economy, with expert analysis of public policy trends impacting the digital platform industry globally. 

Executive Editor Brian Bieron and Senior Advisor Tod Cohen are recognized Internet, trade and platform policy leaders who have served as top global public policy experts to some of the Internet industry's leading platform businesses. They are now providing insights, analysis and reporting to wider audiences through a public policy platform that challenges the reach of all but the largest Internet industry public affairs teams.

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