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(Reuters) - E-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> is preparing to launch an ultra-fast grocery delivery service in the UK, trade magazine the Grocer reported on Friday, citing suppliers.
The service, Ultra Fast Fresh, involves retrofitting nine existing depots within the country to handle fresh produce and fulfill grocery orders within hours, the magazine reported.
The project could involve making Amazon Fresh, Amazon's grocery delivery service, a free benefit of Prime in the UK instead of the monthly add-on fee or per-order charge it currently charges, the weekly magazine reported.
Amazon declined to comment.
The move comes as UK's dominant online grocer, Ocado <OCDO.L>, has been struggling to open additional grocery delivery slots for consumers due to unprecedented demand caused by COVID-19 related lockdowns.
Amazon's new service is aimed at bringing rapid grocery delivery to almost 40% of UK households by the end of the year, the suppliers briefed on the program told The Grocer. Their products will be picked and packed at the refitted Amazon depots.
Ultrafast grocery delivery, a part of Amazon's Fresh service, is currently available for free for Prime members in the United States.
In October, Seattle-based Amazon waived the additional $14.99 per month fee it charged for access to Amazon Fresh.
On Friday, Britain's competition regulator cleared Amazon's purchase of a stake in Deliveroo, in light of a potentially fatal deterioration in the online food delivery group's finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)