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Cyber Monday 2016 at Amazon Fulfillment Center in Dupont WA. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The European Union is looking into how Amazon handles data from smaller sellers in its marketplace. Regulators want to find out whether Amazon is using that information to gain an advantage for products the Seattle e-commerce giant sells directly. If, for example, Amazon discovers a hot new item from a third-party seller, the company could replicate it and sell it at a lower price.

At a press conference, Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner for competition, said her office has opened a preliminary probe into the issue. But she stressed that it is still “early days” and a formal investigation has not been launched.

“The question here is about the data,” she said at the press conference. “Because if you, as Amazon, get the data from the smaller merchants that you host — which can be, of course, completely legitimate because you can improve your service to these smaller merchants — well do you then also use this data to do your own calculations of what is the new big thing?”

Amazon is the latest American tech giant to be scrutinized by European regulators. Last year, the company settled an investigation with the EU over contracts with e-book publishers. Earlier this year, the EU fined Google $5 billion for forcing manufacturers to pre-install the company’s apps on Android devices.

The Seattle tech giant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vestager emphasized that the current probe is still in the exploratory phase. “These are very early days,” she said. “We have no conclusions. We haven’t formally opened a case but we are trying to make sure that we get the full picture.”

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