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Amazon builds empire of own-brand products - from milk to blood monitors

Olivia Feld
Amazon's number of own brands has grown fivefold in two years - AP

Amazon has expanded its range of ­in-house brands fivefold in two years, stoking claims its marketplace is unfair to shoppers and rivals.

The online shopping titan owns 138 brands, up from 27 in 2017, according to data compiled by TJI Research.

The findings come as politicians on both sides of the Atlantic scrutinise Amazon’s growing own-brand business. Many of the brands, which range from milk to nutritional supplements and blood monitors, do not carry the ­Amazon name or logo and are routinely promoted in search results.

Last year, the European Commission said it would investigate whether Amazon has abused its position by gathering data about third-party sellers on its website to give its own product lines an advantage.

Amazon has sold its own brands on its platform for more than a decade, but has rapidly expanded them in recent years. Well known in-house labels include Amazon Basics, a line of household goods, but others include clothing brands, food and healthcare.

Last week Amazon unveiled its first foray into skin care in the United States with a 14-piece line called Belei, an ­attempt to tap into the $16bn (£12bn) US market for personal care and beauty products.

In the EU, Amazon has 23 ­private-label brands, which include make-up, barbecues and clothing.

Margrethe Vestager, the European competition commissioner, is leading a preliminary antitrust investigation. Started in September, the probe follows concerns by third-party retailers in an ecommerce-sector-wide inquiry in 2017 about “dual-role” platforms that sell products in direct competition with third-party sellers, said a spokesman for Ms Vestager.

The investigation will determine whether the concerns raised by the retailers need to be followed up, added the spokesman.

The Commission is clamping down on big tech companies for monopoly abuse. Last week, it ordered Google to pay €1.5bn (£1.3bn) for abusing its dominant position in online search advertising. Amazon handles 49pc of all e-commerce sales in the US.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat US Presidential hopeful, has pledged to force Amazon to separate its own brands from its online marketplace.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “Private label products are a common retail practice. Amazon’s private label products are approximately only 1pc of our total sales. This is far less than other retailers, many of whom have private label products that represent 25pc or more of their sales.”