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German watchdog ends Amazon probe after pricing concession

The logo of Amazon is pictured on a warehouse in Bad Hersfeld May 14, 2013. Employees of Amazon took part in a strike by German united servi
The logo of Amazon is pictured on a warehouse in Bad Hersfeld May 14, 2013. Employees of Amazon took part in a strike by German united servi

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's antitrust watchdog has dropped an investigation into Amazon after the world's biggest Internet retailer agreed to stop forcing third-party merchants to offer their cheapest price when selling products on its platform.

Amazon said in August it would stop its policy in the European Union that prevented merchants selling on its Marketplace from offering lower prices on other websites, including their own.

Andreas Mundt, the president of the German cartel office, said it had decided to set aside the case against Amazon after the company agreed to cancel that demand from the terms and conditions of its contracts with merchants.

"Amazon is the largest online retailer and is in direct competition with Marketplace merchants," he said in a statement.

"Making pricing demands to your own competitors cannot be justified in any circumstances, not even with the undeniable advantages of an online market place."

Amazon was not immediately available to comment on Tuesday.

The German cartel office had worked on the case with its British counterparts in the Office of Fair Trading, which has already indicated it is likely to close its investigation into Amazon after the retailer said it was ending the price parity policy.

Amazon is facing a difficult time in Germany, its second biggest market, with workers at its distribution centres staging a series of strikes over pay and conditions.

Amazon employs around 9,000 people in Germany. Sales there grew almost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7 billion, representing a third of its overseas total.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson and Matthias Inverardi; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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