The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a public consultation to determine whether there is an unfair bias against small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) trading online.
The watchdog will seek feedback on whether the dominance and practices of larger online players are creating barriers for SMBs to starting or expanding an e-commerce presence.
The move is in response to complaints from smaller merchants that rely on e-commerce services, like search engines, online market places and payment service providers, to trade via the internet.
"Online markets are an important driver of greater customer choice and higher economic growth, and the OFT has a key role to play in ensuring that they work well," said OFT chief executive John Fingleton.
The consultation follows a number of different OFT initiatives to increase its understanding of e-commerce industry interdependencies, where the likes of Amazon, eBay and Google have become increasingly dominant.
A recent internet shopping market study found that the innovation and market reach of larger e-commerce service providers has had a largely positive competitive impact, helping to decrease the reputational and cost barriers faced by small businesses setting up online.
But the study also revealed how smaller merchants can become dependent on these providers, and that outages, poor customer feedback mechanisms and a lack of wider supply chain support can put SMBs using their services at a disadvantage.
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