The European Commission published, on May 10, the final report of the sector inquiry on competition in the e-commerce sector ("Report") (available here).

The Report confirms the main concerns already identified by the European Commission in the preliminary report of the sector inquiry published in the end of 2016, according to which several practices often adopted by the companies present in the European market restrict or are capable of restricting competition in the e-commerce sector, both in the marketing of consumer goods and in the marketing of digital content (legal flash on the preliminary report available here). The following are highlighted:

(i) In the market of consumer goods:

  • Restrictions on online sales and advertising;
  • Price restrictions or recommendations;
  • Restriction on sales in online platforms;
  • Restriction on cross boarder sales (geo blocking);
  • Restrictions on usage of price comparison tools; and
  • Exclusion of pure online sellers from distribution systems.

(ii) In the market for digital content:

  • Restriction on cross boarder sales (geo blocking);
  • Bundling of licensing rights;
  • Duration of the licensing agreements; and
  • Payment structure of the licensed rights.

The Commission, which had already recommended the companies to review their practices, has announced that it will increase its enforcement activity in the e -commerce sector; additionally, it will develop further cooperation with the competition authorities of the Member States in order to promote a consistent application of the rules on competition to commercial practices in the e-commerce sector that have been identified as potentially restrictive of competition.

Accordingly, the Commission has announced that it has already enforced cases due to restrictive practices of this nature in the sectors of computer games distribution, holiday accommodation and consumer electronics.

Having this in mind, it is advisable for all companies to review their distribution agreements in order to properly frame this type of restrictive practices, thus mitigating the ir inherent risk form a competition law perspective.