- The executive branch of the European Union laid out its first set of antitrust charges against Amazon on Tuesday in an investigation related to the company’s dual role as both a retailer and a merchant on its website.
- Specifically, the EU is accusing Amazon of abusing that role. It claims that Amazon utilizes seller data from other vendors in order to determine which products it can replicate at cheaper prices.
- The EU also launched a separate investigation into Amazon’s “buy boxes,” accusing the tech giant of preferentially listing its own products, as well as products from sellers that pay to use Amazon’s logistics services.
- The EU joins a growing list of governments addressing antitrust concerns among big tech companies. On Monday, India launched an investigation into whether Google unfairly promoted its payment app on Google Play, the Android app store.
EU Files Antitrust Charges Against Amazon
In a preliminary set of charges filed on Tuesday, the European Union accused tech giant Amazon of violating antitrust laws.
In those charges, the European Commission — the EU’s executive branch — accused Amazon of abusing its dual role as both a retailer and a merchant. By being both a retailer and merchant, Amazon hosts thousands of vendors on its website, allowing them a place to sell their products, while at the same time selling its own products there.
The background related to these charges is a frequent target of controversy surrounding Amazon.
Many small businesses will sell their products on Amazon largely because it’s become such a dominant force in online retail. For example, a shopper is much more likely to find a business on Amazon than they are to find and then also go to that business’s website.
However, Amazon has long been accused of replicating products that sell well on the website, oftentimes then selling those similar products for much cheaper. Moves like that can severely damage small businesses that don’t have the same level of resources Amazon does. It also means smaller companies are left in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation, having to decide between relying on the exposure that Amazon brings to grow a business and potentially having those ideas ripped off by Amazon.
That’s where the European Commission’s come in. According to the Commission — which reviewed data from more than 80 million transactions and 100 million products on Amazon in France and Germany, the EU’s two largest markets — the company is routinely integrating non-public seller data from other vendors into its own retail algorithms.
Essentially, if true, that would mean Amazon is looking at metrics such as the number of a certain product sold by independent vendors on Amazon, as well as how much money those vendors have made from each product. That information, which isn’t able to be accessed by other vendors on Amazon, would then allow Amazon to determine which new products it should roll out and how much it should charge for them.
“We do not take issue with the success of Amazon or its size,” European Commission top antitrust official Margrethe Vestager said. “Our concern is the very specific business conduct that appears to distort competition.”
“Data on the activity of third party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it act[s] as a competitor to these sellers,” she added.
Second Investigation: Amazon Distorts “Buy Boxes”
Alongside those charges, the Commission has also announced that it’s started a separate investigation into Amazon’s policies around its “buy box.”
That’s the sidebar on Amazon that allows customers to add items to their cart with one click; however, the caveat is that the buy box only lists a single vendor. To view other, less-prominently displayed vendors, customers would need scroll down.
As Vestager explains it, “The Buy Box is essential. It prominently shows you offers for one single seller of a chosen product with the possibility for the consumer to purchase it directly. So winning the Buy Box is crucial for the marketplace sellers as it seems that more than 80% of all transactions on Amazon are channelled through it.”
Regarding this investigation, the Commission is specifically looking into whether Amazon uses the buy box to preferentially list its own products and/or products from sellers that pay to use its logistics services.
“Our concern is that Amazon may artificially push retails to use its own related services,” which “may potentially lock them deeper into Amazon’s own ecosystem,” Vestager said.
Amazon Rebukes EU Findings
Naturally, Amazon has denied the Commission’s charges.
“No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon,” a spokesperson said.
As for where things go from here, it’s unclear, but this is likely going to be a very slow process. For one, these charges are just preliminary. The Commission actually needs to finish its investigation first. That means it could take months — or more likely, years — before a fine or other penalties are announced.
It’s also possible these charges could be dropped if the Commission reaches a settlement with Amazon; however, if the Commission does agree that Amazon violated EU competition law, Amazon could face fines up to 10% of its annual worldwide turnover, which would amount to a maximum of $37 billion.
Next month, the Commission is expected to unveil a new package of laws in what could be one of the sweeping set of regulations on the tech industry ever. Notably, that could include rules restricting self-preferential treatment and requiring massive companies like Amazon to share data with smaller rivals.
But it’s not just Europe. On Monday, India opened an antitrust case against Google over allegations that it unfairly promotes Google Pay on Google Play, the app store for Android phones.
Just last month in the U.S., Congress also took aim at big tech companies. In fact, a House Judiciary subcommittee accused Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google of engaging in anti-competitive monopoly tactics.
“By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy. They not only wield tremendous power, but they also abuse it by charging exorbitant fees, imposing oppressive contract terms, and extracting valuable data from the people and businesses that rely on them,” the report said, hitting a very similar note to that of the European Commission.
See what others are saying: (CNN Business) (The New York Times) (Tech Crunch)
James Charles Breaks Silence Over Lawsuit From Former Employee
- YouTuber James Charles posted a video on Monday claiming he has been dealing with a wrongful termination lawsuit from a former employee for two years.
- He said her claims are not true, but he is refusing to settle for the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” she is asking for because he feels he is being “blackmailed.”
- He claims the former employee is making “defamatory” allegations about him to the press in an attempt to push him to settle for a higher amount.
- Insider reporter Kat Tenbarge later posted a tweet suggesting she is working on the story and that it will come out “soon.”
James Charles Addresses Lawsuit
Beauty influencer James Charles posted a seven-minute-long video on Monday claiming he has been dealing with a wrongful termination lawsuit from a former employee for two years and feels cornered into speaking out about the situation.
James, who has been taking a social media break for the last several weeks following a series of sexual misconduct allegations, broke his silence to share his side of the story. He said this is his first time publicly speaking about the matter because the litigation is ongoing. However, he feels he has to speak out now because he says that the former employee is speaking negatively about him to the press and he feels he is being “blackmailed.”
Reports have identified this former employee as Kelly Rocklein. James said he hired her first as an editor and then promoted her to a producer with a salary of $72,000 a year, but she was let go after six months. He says the allegations in the lawsuit he filed are false.
“It basically alleges that she was wrongfully terminated, overworked, and underpaid, all of which are not true,” he said before adding that to him, his employees are “family.”
According to James, the suit is worth far more than lost wages and totals hundreds of thousands of dollars. While he claimed these kinds of suits are common in the entertainment industry, he said they rarely make it to court because they are so long and expensive and usually result in a settlement. James, however, said he refuses to settle.
James Says He is Being Pressured to Settle
James said he was contacted to give a comment for an upcoming article about what it is like to work for him. He claimed the former employee was making “defamatory” and ridiculous comments about him, which he believes are an attempt to pressure him into a higher settlement offer.
“These claims range everything from, I was so lazy she had to force me to get out of my bed and brush my teeth, and without her I would have never made a single video or a single dollar,” James said. “And other things that are much more serious and disgusting such as that I used to say the n-word around her all the time.”
James added that the last claim is “perfect timing” because a Twitter account he has not used since 2016 was allegedly hacked recently and posted a tweet using the n-word.
James said he knows the employees allegations would go away if he just agreed to settle, but he does not want to do that.
“Contrary to popular belief, I have never ever paid anybody to speak or to not speak about me and this will not be the first time that I do it,” he stated. “It just won’t.”
James said he feels no choice but to fully pursue this legally and felt compelled to post this video in the meantime as the situation remains in the court of public opinion, which is already falling out of his favor. He also said he did not want his fans to be blindsided when the upcoming article is published because he knows it will not look good on his part.
Insider Reporter Tweets About Upcoming Article
In April, Rocklein tweeted something that appeared to be about James and the misconduct allegations against him.
“Watching the same people who screwed me over massively end up in deep scandals isn’t news to me, it’s karmic debt,” she wrote.
She also previously posted another tweet that seemingly referenced her lawsuit against James, as well as a lawsuit she allegedly won against internet personality Erika Costell.
“Won 1, going 2 for 2 because im all about law and order,” she said.
Insider reporter Kat Tenbarge, who broke the story involving a rape allegation against the Vlog Squad’s Dom Zeglaitis, responded to James’ video in a series of now-deleted tweets. She shared his video and said, “Absolutely not, story coming soon.”
“Literally cannot believe this,” she continued. “Okay, well, yeah. You paid your creative director $72k. AFTER a raise. We’ll start there, since you’re the one putting it out! More soon.”
“BLACKMAIL is a criminal allegation, and a really crazy and stupid one to make.”
After taking those posts down, she shared a new tweet saying “We’re reporting everything out. Story will be coming soon!” That post was retweeted by Rocklein.
See what others are saying: (MTV News Australia) (Just Jared) (Daily Dot)
Tana Mongeau Seemingly Defends Talent Agency After Backlash
- YouTuber Tana Mongeau officially launched an influencer management division on Monday called Tana’s Angel’s Agency.
- She wrote on Instagram that she is regularly asked for advice about how to build a following on platforms like OnlyFans and said this new venture will allow her to help people break into the business.
- Mongeau quickly faced backlash from those who believe she is not qualified to teach people how to build an audience from the ground up and from others who think the agency is a “scam.”
- In response, Mongeau said she “hired an amazing team” of successful people and will only sign creators “that I truly feel I can benefit, and that I believe in & resonate with.”
Tana Mongeau Launches Management Division
YouTuber Tana Mongeau launched an influencer management agency on Monday named Tana’s Angels Agency.
The division is part of Unruly Agency, a social media marketing and management company owned by Tara Electra, who will be leading the launch alongside Mongeau and her manager, David Weintraub. Mongeau said she wants to use the agency to help aspiring content creators because when she was just starting out, she could have benefited from a mentor.
“Throughout my career I’ve been taken advantage of more times than I can count,” she previously told Us Weekly.”I am starting TAA to teach people how to not make the mistakes I made early on in my career.”
In a Monday Instagram post, Mongeau wrote that she regularly gets messages from people asking for advice about how to get started and make money on platforms like OnlyFans. Mongeau said that by starting this agency, she can now use her “experiences, platform, connections, knowledge and creativity” to help these small creators find her same success. She also said that the same people who helped her make millions of dollars on OnlyFans will be part of the TAA team.
“I brought on those people to TAA to finally be able to share their expertise, marketing knowledge, and much more with authentic creators I believe in- big, small, or starting today,” she wrote.
TAA Receives Backlash
However, this pursuit has not come without a fair amount of backlash. Many people have shared Mongeau’s tweet announcing TAA and criticized her for the venture. Among other things, many believe she is not qualified to teach people how to build a following from the ground up because she was already famous when she started her OnlyFans.
Others accused her of taking advantage of OnlyFans users and sex workers who are already struggling enough, while others accused her of being a pimp and running a scam.
Mongeau seems to be aware of some of this criticism, as she joked in a tweet early on Tuesday saying, “Someone commented ‘how she gon have a talent agency with no talent’ on my post i’m screaming.”
She then further explained the intent behind TAA.
“I hired an amazing team of lots of individuals who have helped me earn millions on OF and with other opportunities to help me alongside this project. I’m also only signing people onto Tana‘s Angels that I truly feel I can benefit, and that I believe in & resonate with.”
The backlash also does not seem to be slowing her down. Mongeau said that within the first 10 hours of the launch, 100,000 people applied to be part of TAA.
See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (Daily Dot) (Us Weekly)
New Footage Shows YouTuber David Dobrik’s Role in Jeff Wittek’s Life-Threatening Accident
- The latest episode of YouTuber Jeff Wittek’s docuseries “Don’t Try This At Home” revealed that he sustained a serious facial injury last year while filming a dangerous stunt on an excavator that was operated by fellow creator David Dobrik.
- Dobrik said he wanted to make major stunt videos with his Vlog Squad as a return to YouTube amid the pandemic.
- For one stunt, Vlog Squad members hung onto a rope that was attached to an excavator in a lake while Dobrik swung them around. When Wittek was on the rope, he swung so fast that he crashed into the excavator and fell into the water face-down.
- Dobrik is now facing backlash online from people who are shocked that he endangered his friends’ lives for YouTube content.
Footage Show Dangerous Stunt Gone Wrong
Footage from the second episode of YouTuber Jeff Wittek’s series “Don’t Try This At Home” shows that David Dobrik was involved in the accident that left Witteck with serious face injuries last year.
Wittek had previously spoken about his injuries but never revealed the details behind what caused them. His latest episode, titled “How I Broke My Face,” was posted Wednesday night and answered many long-asked questions about the incident.
The video starts with Wittek and other Vlog Squad members discussing how the coronavirus pandemic shut the world down and paused the group’s ability to make videos together. Dobrik, one of the most popular creators on YouTube, said he wanted to make major stunt videos as their return to the platform.
For one of these stunts, Dobrik put an excavator in a lake that he said was roughly one foot deep. Dobrik then operated the machine as Vlog Squad members wakeboarded and surfed on the lake while attached to it, but they wanted to take things to the next level.
“I’m sitting there watching Todd wakesurf for hours and great, but we’re here trying to make a funny video,” Wittek explained. “If you want wakeboarding videos, go to Youtube and type ‘cool guy wake surfing’ and I’m sure you’ll see a ton of them.”
Members of the group then proceeded to hold onto a rope that was attached to the excavator while Dobrik operated it and swung them around the lake. Vlog Squadder Corinna Kopff was the first to give it a try but eventually asked to be taken down because it felt dangerous.
“You take things too far,” she said to Dobrik as she was hopping off the rope.
Wittek then opted to give it a try. He had just spent time skydiving with members of the Vlog Squad for a separate part of Dobrik’s return video, so he figured he could handle this seemingly easier stunt.
“So I grabbed the rope and I tried to make a goddamn funny video for people,” Wittek said. “But this is where I made a mistake. I forgot the biggest fucking idiot I knew was driving it.”
The footage then shows Wittek swinging incredibly fast into the excavator and then cuts to black. The next shot shows him falling face-down into the lake.
“Time literally slows down,” Dobrik said while describing the moment.
“The whole side of his face is just open,” Vlog Squadder Todd Smith added.
Dobrik Faces Backlash for “Reckless” Behavior
Dobrik trended on Twitter Thursday morning as people accused him of endangering Wittek’s life in the name of making YouTube content.
“David Dobrik needs to be stopped. He’s always been irresponsible at his friends expense for YOUTUBE videos,” one person wrote. “He COULD have been charged with manslaughter had Jeff been inches closer to the excavator.”
The comments on the video are filled with similar outrage.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” one YouTube user wrote. “I still can’t believe what I saw. It’s so reckless what he did to you and the extreme lengths and measures that people do at other people’s expenses just to get Youtube video views is insane.”
“It’s amazing David Dobrik hasn’t killed someone for a Youtube video yet,” another person added.
Major creators like Trisha Paytas, who has long been vocal about her issues with Dobrik and the Vlog Squad, also expressed her disgust at the video.
“The fact that he has Natalie THERE + three assistants , Meghan the pr fairy, and dumbass jack manager guy and not one person could get a stunt coordinator / medic for this is another level of negligence,” she said.
Dobrik’s Month of Scandals
So far, Dobrik has not responded to the wave of outrage. He has been facing intense criticism for the last month over his involvement with a separate issue with the Vlog Squad. Former member Dom Zegalitis, also known as Durte Dom, was accused in March of raping a woman who was too drunk to consent in 2018.
The alleged assault happened when the woman was with Dobrik’s Vlog Squad to film a video. The woman, who was under 21 at the time, said members of the group supplied her and her friends with alcohol.
Zeglaitis recently denied the rape allegation and said “as far as I am concerned, everything that occurred during the night in question was completely consensual.”
Dobrik released two videos addressing the incident, claiming he no longer associates with Zeglaitis and wants to take accountability for what happened in the Vlog Squad under his watch. He said he would be taking time away from the Internet to reevaluate the way he creates content.
Dobrik has lost major brand deals as a result of this controversy. He also had to step away from the social media app he founded, Dispo, following the accusation.