How do I start my own e-commerce business? Many online retailers have probably already asked themselves this question in the area of children’s fashion, prams and the like. Do I set up my own shop and accept the corresponding costs and effort or do I set myself up on one of the very large e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Otto or Zalando?

Especially for small and medium-sized retailers, the so-called online marketplaces, i.e. the digital counterpart to classic stationary wholesale, are an opportunity to enter digital sales with comparatively little effort and possibly reach an audience of millions very quickly.

At the same time, however, the economic dependence of these dealers on market-strong platforms is also increasing. Almost 50 percent of all German internet sales in 2017, for example, were handled solely via Amazon and the associated marketplace, as the retail association HDE makes clear.

Gatekeeper between customers and dealers

“With rapidly growing market shares, a few marketplaces are threatening to push themselves between customers and dealers as gatekeepers. There is a threat of imbalances in the negotiating position,” says Stephan Tromp, Managing Director of HDE.

In relation to this, the medium-sized retailers operating on the strong online marketplaces are often insignificant. As a result, many dealers feel unfairly treated by their contractual partners and are confronted with potentially abusive contractual clauses and unfair business practices.

Against this background, the trade association is now launching its marketplace monitor, which will enable dealers to report critical practices directly to the HDE. The feedback is then confidentially collected, evaluated and bundled into legal and political processes as well as the dialogue with marketplace operators, according to the association.

More transparency and security for dealers

“The HDE Marketplace Monitor is intended to help support compliance with the existing legal framework and to promote the development of targeted measures in the event of structural disadvantages. In the end, the aim is to further improve business relationships between dealers and marketplaces for the benefit of both sides,” Tromp continued.

Recent surveys would show that some dealers complain about product removal and blocked accounts without notice and without effective means of challenge. In some cases, there is also talk of possible discrimination and preferences for the platform’s own products in placement. Other companies are even demanding effective remedial and compensation mechanisms.



Image: HDE