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Amazon is the titan of twenty-first century commerce.
Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive.
”3 Sixteen years on, nobody seriously doubts that Amazon is anything but the titan of twenty-firstcentury commerce.
In 2015, it earned 7 billion in revenue,4 and, as of 2013, it sold more than its next twelve online competitors combined.5 By some estimates, Amazon now captures 46% of online shopping, with its share growing faster than the sector as a whole.6 In addition to being a retailer, it is a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading provider of cloud server space and computing power.
This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon’s structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine.
The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon’s power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties.
Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meager profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead.
Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it.These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons.First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded.Trying to make sense of the contradiction, one journalist noted that the critics’ argument seems to be that “even though Amazon’s activities tend to reduce considered good for consumers, they ultimately hurt consumers.”22 In some ways, the story of Amazon’s sustained and growing dominance is also the story of changes in our antitrust laws.Due to a change in legal thinking and practice in the 1970s and 1980s, antitrust law now assesses competition largely with an eye to the short-term interests of consumers, not producers or the health of the market as a whole; antitrust doctrine views low consumer prices, alone, to be evidence of sound competition.Elements of the firm’s structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns—yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny.