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Consumer watchdog slams Amazon’s new grocery service

Amazon.de’s new grocery delivery service needs a bit of fine tuning, according to test results released by consumer watchdog Stiftung Warentest on Monday.

Consumer watchdog slams Amazon's new grocery service
Photo: DPA

Problems include selection, missing product information and faulty delivery practices.

The company already offers some 50,000 edibles with the service, which started in early July. Products include beverages, baked goods, fresh meats, deli items, regional specialties, dairy and more.

“The large selection, whereby it is difficult to find individual products, showed itself to be incomplete and extravagant,” according to a Stiftung Warentest statement.

In addition to well-known mineral water brands, for example, customers can also treat themselves rarities to a bottle of Tasmanian rain water for €7.90, but most product descriptions are missing information on shelf life and ingredients, the organisation said.

They also complained that shipping could quickly amount to more than the cost of the actual products. Testers ordered 20 fresh products in three different purchases, which totalled around €20, but shipping costs rand in at €25 – and required 15 separate packages.

“The problem: with fresh products Amazon is only the arbiter, shopping is done through partners who all tally up their own shipping costs,” Stiftung Warentest said.

Ten of the packages arrived within two days, the other four arrived on the third day. The final package, containing organic eggs and butter, was only delivered three days after testers registered a complaint.

“So those who aren’t permanently at home increase the risk that the packages will end up at the neighbours,” the organisation said.

Despite the problems, most of the foodstuffs arrived undamaged an in their desired state. A few exceptions included one wrong product, one broken egg, salad with brown edges, and a melted package of butter.

The top consumer testing agency’s concluded that the new service on Amazon is of “little use,“ though it did say that the company itself has already said it would work to improve the offering.

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AMAZON

Germany opens ‘anti-competition’ probe into Amazon with tougher law

Germany's competition authority said Tuesday it had opened an inquiry into online retail giant Amazon over potential "anti-competitive practices", using a new law giving regulators more power to rein in big tech companies.

Germany opens 'anti-competition' probe into Amazon with tougher law
An Amazon warehouse in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

Federal Cartel Office head Andreas Mundt said his office is examining whether Amazon has “an almost unchallengeable position of economic power” and whether it “operates across various markets”.

If so, it would be deemed of “paramount significance”, said Mundt, adding that the regulator could “take early action against and prohibit possible anti-competitive practices by Amazon”.

“This could apply to Amazon with its online marketplaces and many other, above all digital offers,” he added.

Under the amendment to Germany’s competition law passed in January, the watchdog said it now has more power to “intervene earlier and more effectively” against big tech companies, rather than simply punishing them for abuses of their dominant market position.

READ ALSO: ‘I want to know origin of my grapes’: Amazon loses fruit and veg ruling in German court

The German reform coincided with new EU draft legislation unveiled in December aimed at curbing the power of the internet behemoths that could shake up the way Silicon Valley can operate in the 27-nation bloc.

The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny around the globe, including in the United States, where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.

The Amazon probe is only the second time that Germany’s Federal Cartel Office has made use of its new powers, after first employing them to widen the scope of an investigation into Facebook over its integration of virtual reality headsets.

The watchdog already has two traditional abuse control proceedings open against Amazon.

One involves the company’s use of algorithms to influence the pricing of third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace, while another is probing the extent to which Amazon and major producers such as Apple exclude third parties from
selling brand products.

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