In May 2015, the European Commission launched an inquiry into the e-commerce sector in the EU as part of a number of initiatives connected to its Digital Single Market Strategy. The Commission is concerned by slow growth in cross-border online sales within the EU, and so the inquiry will focus on potential barriers to cross-border online trade in high volume e-commerce goods such as clothing, shoes and accessories.

The Commission is set to analyze obstacles faced by online retailers, which are not necessarily faced by traditional bricksand-mortar retailers and territorial restrictions placed on resellers. The inquiry is in the data gathering phase at the moment, with the Commission sending lengthy questionnaires to many manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers across Europe. It is expected that these questionnaires will focus on distribution arrangements. The Commission is due to publish a preliminary report in mid-2016 with a final report due in early 2017.

What can your business do to prepare?

  • Alert senior management that they may receive a questionnaire and that there will be a limited time period for a response.
  • Check your dawn raid and/or compliance training is up to date.
  • Review your distribution arrangements and ensure appropriate regulatory intervention clauses are in place.