On 10 May 2017, the European Commission published its final report on the e-commerce sector inquiry. The report is divided into two sections, covering e-commerce issues in relation to consumer goods and digital content. It also identifies business practices that might restrict competition and limit consumer choice. It would be advisable for e-commerce businesses to review their commercial practices and revise them as necessary in light of the Commission’s stated aim of targeting e-commerce business practices that may negatively impact the functioning of the Digital Single Market.
Mélanie Bruneau advises clients from a variety of industrial sectors, including transport, manufacturing, chemicals and IT, on the legal aspects of their business activities, with particular emphasis on regulatory compliance. Read Mélanie Bruneau's full bio.
In the past couple of years, the European Commission has decided to review and evaluate the functioning of different aspects of the EU merger control regime regulated by EU Regulation No. 139/2004 of 20 January 2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings (the EU Merger Regulation), its implementing regulation and related notices and guidelines.
The process started in 2014 when the Commission adopted a White Paper titled “Towards More Effective EU Merger Control” (the White Paper), which presented the Commission’s view that EU merger control worked well and that no fundamental overhaul of the system was needed. The Commission did, however, identify specific amendments to the EU Merger Regulation to make it more effective.
In the wake of the positive feedback it received during the consultation it organised following the publication of the White Paper, the Commission launched another public consultation in October 2016 on the “Evaluation of procedural and jurisdictional aspects of EU merger control”, through which it is seeking feedback from stakeholders on the effectiveness of certain additional procedural and jurisdictional aspects of EU merger control. Stakeholders have until 13 January 2017 to respond.
In October 2016, the European Commission launched a public consultation to continue the process of identifying possible areas of the EU Merger Regulation suitable for refinement, improvement and simplification.
On 8 September 2016, the General Court of the European Union upheld the European Commission’s decision in which the antitrust regulator imposed fines of approximately EUR 150 million on Lundbeck and a number of generic companies for entering into reverse settlement agreements which delayed the entry of cheaper generic versions of a blockbuster antidepressant.
The Commission had first hinted that patent settlement agreements causing delayed generic entry might be problematic in its 2009 report on the Pharmaceutical Sector Inquiry. Continue Reading EU Court Confirms European Commission’s Decision on Pay-for-Delay Agreements
On 7 July 2016, the European Commission adopted a decision accepting commitments by 14 shipping liner companies to change their practices concerning announcements of intended price increases for containerised shipping services. The Commission considered that these announcements were anti-competitive and resulted in higher prices for container liner shipping services, thereby harming customers. Continue Reading European Commission Challenges Public Price Announcements by Shipping Liner Companies
In May 2015, the European Commission (the Commission) launched a sector inquiry in the field of e-commerce in the context of its Digital Single Market strategy. Its aim was to obtain an overview of prevailing market trends, gather evidence on potential barriers to competition linked to the growth of e-commerce and understand the prevalence of certain, potentially restrictive, business practices and the underlying rationale for their use.
In the course of this inquiry, the Commission gathered evidence from nearly 1,800 companies active in the e-commerce of consumer goods and digital content and analyzed around 8,000 distribution contracts. On 18 March 2016, the Commission published its initial findings showing that geo-blocking is widespread in the European Union due to unilateral decisions by companies not to sell abroad as well as contractual barriers set up by companies preventing consumers from shopping online across EU borders.
On 15 September 2016, the Commission completed its preliminary report (the Preliminary Report), which confirms the fast growth of e-commerce in the European Union and identified business practices that might restrict competition and limit consumer choice. Continue Reading E-Commerce: The European Commission Completes Its Preliminary Report on the E-Commerce Sector Inquiry
In May 2015, the European Commission launched a two-year, industry-wide inquiry into the e-commerce sector to gather data on the functioning of e-commerce markets, so as to identify possible competition concerns. This sector inquiry focuses particularly on potential barriers erected by companies to cross-border online trade in goods and services where e-commerce is most widespread (e.g. electronics, clothing and shoes), as well as in digital content.
While the European Commission intends to provide specific guidance on European e-commerce issues when it publishes its final report in 2017, early insights can be found in national competition authorities’ recent decisions, particularly in France and Germany.
In France, the French Competition Authority (FCA) announced on 18 November 2015 the closure of an investigation into the contractual practices of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas, as a result of Adidas’ change in its online sales policy.
This FCA investigation, which had been carried out in coordination with the German Bundeskartellamt (BKA), centered on the company’s restriction of online sales for its selective distributors. The conditions for online sales, which were introduced in 2012, included restrictions on retailers from selling via large online platforms such as eBay and Amazon Marketplace.