You could be forgiven for thinking that after a busy year DG Competition would take a break over the summer period. In fact, it continues to focus on the e-commerce sector inquiry which it launched in May (see our previous commentary here and here).
Over the past few weeks DG Comp has continued to send information requests to numerous stakeholders in the digital market throughout the EU. This includes suppliers, wholesalers, online platforms and online retailers. The currently proposed timetable for the inquiry is as follows:
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Earlier this summer the Commission also made a number of other significant moves in the e-commerce sector. First, it opened an investigation into Amazon’s e-book distribution agreements and in particular its ‘most-favoured-nation’ clauses. Second, it approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed creation of a joint venture for multi-territorial online music licensing and copyright administration services by three music collecting societies (we will be writing a post on this shortly). Third, it sent a Statement of Objections to MasterCard in relation to the MasterCard’s inter-regional inter-change fees and its rules on cross-border acquiring. It is alleged that these rules prevent arbitrage on interchange fees in different Member States thereby artificially raising costs for consumers using the card.
National authorities also remain active: the German Bundeskartellamt recently concluded its investigation into the selective distribution system of Asics which prohibited dealers from: (i) using online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon; (ii) supporting price comparison engines; and (iii) using its trade mark on third party sites, even to guide customers to the site of an authorised dealer. The regulator found that each prohibition was itself a hardcore restriction, and taken together essentially amounted to a de facto ban on internet distribution, causing serious restraints to competition. The Commission is bound to be following such outcomes with great attention.
With so much activity in the area it is clear that the Commission, as well as the national authorities, are scrutinising closely the behaviour of those working in the e-commerce sector. We will be sure to keep readers updated as developments in the area unfold...