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The federal Competition Bureau says it is investigating Amazon.com Inc. and asking Canadian retailers to share experiences that might constitute an “abuse of dominance” by the e-commerce giant.

The bureau revealed Friday that it has been probing the company since early 2020, and is seeking to learn whether the Amazon.ca marketplace in Canada has restricted fair competition to the detriment of consumers and businesses. But in a news release, the bureau said “there is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time.”

An Amazon warehouse north of Calgary in Balzac, Alta., is shown on on May 4, 2020.

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Amazon has risen to become one of the world’s most valuable companies, with a market capitalization of US$1.6-trillion. It has spent the past two and a half decades becoming the global hub for e-commerce, in large part by promoting consumer convenience and selling enormous volumes of merchandise with razor-thin profit margins through a worldwide supply chain. It has also come under fire for allegations it treats workers unfairly, according to accounts from current and former employees reported by media in many countries.

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As Amazon has grown, it has become the target of several investigations worldwide over potential anti-competitive behaviour, including inquiries by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union’s antitrust commission.

Canada’s Competition Bureau said it is examining Amazon policies that might discourage third-party sellers who use Amazon’s marketplace from selling their wares for lower prices elsewhere. It is also examining whether third-party sellers who choose not to use Amazon’s proprietary warehouse-fulfilment system or its advertisement system face barriers to making sales.

And the bureau is seeking to learn whether Amazon employs strategies that might push consumers to buy its own products rather than those of competing sellers. The bureau is asking retailers operating in Canada to share details confidentially by e-mail.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business head Dan Kelly said he couldn’t comment on whether Amazon had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour, but added that “many, many small firms are finding their margins just eroding fast, because they’re having to keep up, they’re having to compete price-wise with Amazon, which is very challenging to do.”

An Amazon spokesperson said by e-mail the company is complying with the investigation, and it supports the growth of Canadian retailers that sell through its site.

The Competition Bureau declined an interview request, saying it is obligated by law to keep investigations confidential.

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