Major EU competition inquiry into e-commence announced | Fieldfisher
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Major EU competition inquiry into e-commence announced

John Cassels


United Kingdom

The European Competition Commissioner, Margarethe Vestager, has announced that there will be a major competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in Europe.

This inquiry will be relevant to every business that sells or facilitates the sale of goods or services online in the EU. It will also cover digital content.  The purpose of the inquiry is to help the Commission to understand and tackle barriers to cross-border e-commerce.

Currently, only 15% of consumers purchased online from a seller based in another EU Member State and the Commission considers that to be a problem.

In a recent speech, Margarethe Vestager clearly indicated that this is about media content as well as tangible goods and also where her inclinations lie:

"I, for one, 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 am in Brussels. Or why I can buy a film on DVD back home and watch it abroad, but I cannot do the same online."

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
  • Other disguised restrictions on online selling (e.g. quality or 'tough and try' provisions).

These sorts of investigations generally involve a large information gathering phase (the Commission will dispatch numerous detailed questionnaires with mandatory deadlines for response); 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.

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.