E-commerce Sector Inquiry

This information portal will provide you with all the necessary information on the antitrust competition inquiry of the European Commission (“Commission”) into the e-commerce sector in the European Union. This portal will be frequently updated following questions from companies and relevant legal developments.

Vertical agreements (agreements between undertakings that operate at a different level of the distribution, such as franchise agreements) and e-commerce in particular have recently been the focus of attention in the European Union, including the Netherlands. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (“ACM”) published its position on vertical agreements on 20 April 2015. That publication was accompanied by an information chart and a press release. Shortly before, the Commission had announced its intention to commence a sector inquiry into e‑commerce (including e-tailing). On 6 May 2015 the Commission effectively launched the sector inquiry into e-commerce in light of the Digital Agenda for Europe 2010-2020. On 15 September 2016 the Commission published a Preliminary Report.The Final Report is scheduled for the first quarter of 2017. One of the main concerns relating to the development of the e-commerce sector are barriers to e-commerce, such as geo-blocking. Another alleged barrier for e-commerce is the sale of products on online platforms such as Amazon. In July 2014 the Bundeskartellamt (“Bka”) closed its proceedings against Adidas AG after the company, in order to avoid a lengthy investigation and possible fine, decided to lift a ban on the use of online platforms (such as Amazon.com) by its retailers.

The French and UK competition authorities (Autorité de la concurrence and the Competition & Markets Authority, CMA”) have recently also shown an interest in e-commerce, especially in the online hotel booking sector and the accommodation booking websites.

It is clear that both the Commission and the national competition authorities will continue to closely monitor possible restrictions to the development of the e-commerce sector. These developments may have major consequences for both producers and distributors. Companies are therefore well advised to closely scrutinise their (internet) distribution agreements.

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