February 1, 2018 / 9:00 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 2-Mexico anti-trust regulator probes e-commerce abuses

(Adds comments from investigator)

MEXICO CITY, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Mexico's anti-trust agency on Thursday said that it is investigating "probable" monopoly practices in Mexico's e-commerce market, which includes online retailers like Amazon.

The Federal Commission for Economic Competition, or Cofece, said in a statement that it was investigating possible practices such as price discrimination by major players to crimp the growth of smaller competitors.

Cofece did not provide details on the investigation or name any companies but noted it had begun the investigation in late September.

Regulators around the globe have been wrestling with the impact of online giants Facebook, Alphabet Inc's Google and Amazon.com Inc on local markets and this is Mexico's first probe of internet businesses.

Sergio Lopez, Cofece's top investigator, said in a telephone interview that he was looking at stores that offer their own goods online as well a major e-commerce platforms.

"We are not going against anyone specifically, but we do have indications that there could be relative monopolistic practices being carried out in this market," Lopez said.

Lopez said investigations by Cofece can take up to 2-1/2 years. He could not project how long this investigation would take but said they were carrying out the probe with "rigor."

"We are entering this market because (it) is growing exponentially," he said.

Companies found guilty of monopolistic abuses could face fines of up to 8 percent of their revenues, he added.

E-commerce accounts for slightly more than 3 percent of all retail sales in Mexico, where shoppers fear credit card fraud and are often paid in cash. But there has been a scramble to gain market share among Mexico's middle and upper classes.

Top players in the Mexican online e-commerce space include Amazon, Argentina's MercadoLibre Inc Wal-Mart de Mexico and more recent entrants such as appliance dealer and bank Elektra. (Reporting by Veronica Gomez; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Cynthia Osterman)

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