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EU Inquiry into E-Commerce

15/05/2015

Locations

United Kingdom

In March 2015 a major competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in Europe was announced. This inquiry will accompany actions launched within the framework of the DSM strategy

"I cannot understand why I can watch my favourite Danish channels on my tablet in Copenhagen – a service I paid for – but I can't when I'm in Brussels." So said EU Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager when announcing in March 2015 a major competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in Europe. This inquiry will accompany actions launched within the framework of the DSM strategy as set out above.  Indeed, identifying and tackling barriers to cross-border e-commerce is a high priority for the European Commission under the new Presidency of Jean-Claude Juncker. Currently, only 15% of consumers have purchased online from a seller based in another EU Member State and the Commission considers that to be a problem.

The inquiry will be relevant to every business that sells or facilitates the sale of goods or services online in the EU. Its scope will cover not only physical goods and services but also media content as shown by the Commissioner's desire to watch Danish TV when in Belgium. 

Things the investigation will be looking out for include

  • Contractual or other restrictions on reselling online;
  • Restrictions on reselling online freely across the whole of the EU;
  • Geo-blocking on the basis of residence or credit card details;
  • Price adaptation to minimise incentives for online selling; and
  • Other disguised restrictions on online selling (e.g. quality or 'tough and try' provisions).

These types of investigations generally involve a large information gathering phase; a processing and review stage; and then further competition infringement investigations where there is evidence that the EU's competition rules may have been infringed.

The Commission is expected to start sending out questionnaires, which normally haven mandatory deadlines for response, in the next few weeks.

If you would like more information about what this might mean for your business, get ahead and call us now. We can help you to identify and manage potential risks before the investigation really gets going.

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