Short Reads

European Commission opens three investigations in the e-commerce sector

European Commission opens three investigations in the e-commerce secto

European Commission opens three investigations in the e-commerce sector

01.03.2017 EU law

On 2 February 2017, the European Commission published a press release announcing that it had launched three separate investigations in the e-commerce sector (two investigations on its own initiative and one following complaints from customers). These investigations are part of the Commission’s broader Digital Single Market Strategy, which aims to eliminate barriers that hinder cross-border online sales [see our October 2016 Newsletter]. 
 

The first investigation relates to alleged anti-competitive agreements concluded by manufacturers of consumer electronics. Several undertakings are suspected of having restricted the ability of online retailers to set their own retail prices for consumer electronics products such as notebooks and home audio systems. Interestingly, the Commission is also looking into the potential aggravating effects of pricing software used by online retailers that automatically adapts retail prices to those of competitors.

The second investigation concerns "geo-blocking" practices in the PC video games industry. Several video game publishers and a game distribution platform are suspected of having used "activation keys" which granted access to purchased games only to consumers in particular EU Member States. This allegedly resulted in a restriction of parallel trade and prevented consumers from buying cheaper games that may have been available in other Member States [see our April 2016 Newsletter for more information on geo-blocking.

The third investigation was launched following complaints from customers and relates to agreements between tour operators and hotels. The Commission suspects that certain clauses in these agreements discriminated between customers based on their nationality or country of residence. Because of these clauses, certain customers may have been blocked from seeing full hotel availability or booking hotel rooms at the best prices available. Allegedly, this would lead to market partitioning.

These investigations show that following the e-commerce sector inquiry launched in May 2015 the Commission is prepared to take concrete action in particular where the agreements or conduct at hand hinder cross-border online sales.

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of March 2017. Other articles in this newsletter:

1. European Commission approves German measure to support electric charging infrastructure for green vehicles
2. Implementation of Antitrust Damages Directive: Dutch legislation effective as of 10 February 2017
3. Belgian Competition Authority publishes Guidelines on how to identify and avoid bid-rigging

Team

Related news

06.05.2021 EU law
Abuse of economic dependence: lessons drawn from the first judgments

Short Reads - On 22 August 2020, the ban on abuse of economic dependence was implemented in Belgium (Article IV.2/1 of the Code of Economic Law). Now that almost a year has passed and the first judgments have been rendered, we assess what first lessons can be drawn from these judgments. The rulings show that the ban is regularly relied upon in court and has lowered the hurdle for plaintiffs to make their case.

Read more

26.04.2021 BE law
Openbaarmaking en bedrijfsgeheimen, waar ligt de grens?

Articles - De Voorzitter van de Ondernemingsrechtbank te Brussel, zetelend zoals in kortgeding, heeft geoordeeld dat de openbaarmaking van een geheim productieproces door een ex-werknemer aan een concurrerende onderneming een oneerlijke handelspraktijk uitmaakt (schending van artikel XI.332 van het Wetboek Economisch Recht).[1] 

Read more