Japan's Fair Trade Commission raided the offices of Amazon's Japanese unit on suspicion of antitrust activity, business daily Nikkei said Monday, according to Reuters.
It’s unclear when the raid took place, but regulators are said to believe that Amazon has pressured retailers to offer products at lower prices than rivals. A Japanese Fair Trade Commission spokesman didn't confirm the report, but said, "I won't say the contents are incorrect.”
Amazon hasn’t commented on the report, according to several news outlets, and didn’t respond to Retail Dive by press time.
Amazon is well known for its customer-centric approach, and although it doesn’t seem quite as dedicated to providing the lowest prices on the internet across the board, price competition remains a great part of that. For example, Amazon recently began phasing out manufacturers' suggested retail prices, a practice that is increasingly viewed as deceptive and has invited regulatory scrutiny and lawsuits.
Ultimately, experts say, Amazon is interested in building an appealing, consumer-oriented marketplace where prices are low (or at least low enough), where the products are of good quality and the service is trustworthy. Amazon Prime members (or other Amazon shoppers) may be willing to pay a bit more knowing they can have items delivered swiftly for free and that they’ll get strong customer support if they’re not satisfied. Amazon is intent on developing Prime to the point it would be "irresponsible not to be a member,” Bezos wrote this spring in his annual letter to shareholders.
Scot Wingo, founder and executive chairman of e-commerce firm ChannelAdvisor, which works with a range of Amazon Marketplace third-party vendors, recently told Retail Dive that consumers are driving lower prices. “If you spend time with executives and employees, you see it’s part of the customer culture there," Wingo said. "Everyone talks about the customer, but I’ve never seen anyone walk the walk like Amazon does.”
But such a relentlessness commitment to lowering prices could veer into troublesome antitrust territory for some regulators, and Amazon has found itself in hot water before, in Europe. The European Union investigated the company’s e-book pricing last year, and Britain's Office of Fair Trading and Germany's Federal Cartel Office have previously looked at Amazon's conditions for third-party marketplace. Both closed their investigations after Amazon changed a policy that banned sellers from featuring lower prices than those offered on Amazon, a standard practice for Amazon’s Marketplace here, according to Wingo.
Amazon Japan's net sales last year were $8.3 billion last year, some 7.7% of its worldwide net sales, according to Reuters. Its main rival in Japan, Rakuten, saw revenue in Japan of 263.9 billion yen ($2.9 billion) in the same period.