The European Commission has today published its long awaited final report in its e-commerce sector inquiry. The inquiry was launched in May 2015 to investigate concerns that businesses are restricting online sales with a view to limiting price competition and cross-border trade.
The final report appears to confirm the Commission’s concerns. Practices highlighted by the report as potentially problematic include exclusion of pure online players and the use of pricing software to monitor and adjust pricing.
On the back of the final report, the Commission has made clear it will take further enforcement action.
The Commission has already shown it is serious about stamping out restrictions of online sales, discounting and cross-border sales. In February 2017, the Commission launched investigations in the consumer electronics, videogames and hotel sectors.
This is a change of focus for the Commission, which, for many years, has pursued ‘horizontal’ cartels between competitors whilst leaving enforcement of ‘vertical’ pricing/resale restrictions to national regulators.
Businesses should take this opportunity to review their practices. The Commission has publicly welcomed the fact that a number of leading clothing and other retail brands have reviewed their practices. Enforcement action is most likely for those businesses that fail to heed the warnings in the report.
The European Commission's final report on the e-commerce sector inquiry identifies business practices that may restrict competition. It allows the Commission to target its enforcement of EU antitrust rules in e-commerce markets and has already prompted companies to review their practices.