On 5 August 2013, the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) issued a decision finding that Roma Medical Aids Limited (Roma), a manufacturer of mobility scooters, and some of its retailers breached UK competition law by limiting online sales. UK competition law is, on the substantive side, effectively the same as EU competition law, so the principles in this case apply EU-wide.
The OFT found that Roma entered into arrangements with seven UK retailers that prevented them from selling Roma-branded mobility scooters online and from advertising their prices online. This limited consumers’ choice and obstructed their ability to compare prices and get value for money. This decision is important because it shows that the OFT, like other competition authorities throughout Europe, is keen to clamp down on restrictions on online sales. It is also important to note that the decision follows a study into the mobility aids sector in the UK carried out by the OFT in 2011. Market studies at national or EU level should be followed carefully since they can lead to material consequences for businesses affected (including but not limited to enforcement actions such as this).
The case also serves as yet another reminder that even small companies, such as those involved in this case, need to put in place and regularly update a suitable competition law compliance programme in the EU.