On 18 September 2012, the French Competition Authority (Autorité de la concurrence) published an opinion on e-commerce, setting out the findings of the sector inquiry it conducted in 2011. Its inquiry focused on three sectors: electrical domestic appliances, para-medicinal products and luxury perfumery.
After presenting the growth of e-commerce in France, the Authority found that, in general, the prices of products sold on-line are significantly lower than prices in brick and mortar shops. It analysed the role of the different players in this sector, and in particular price comparison tools, market places and “pure player” distributors.
The Authority analysed the possible obstacles to the development of e-commerce. It has identified certain types of contractual provisions likely to restrict the development of on-line sales, in particular through the application of different pricing and delivery terms depending on the distribution channel or in the context of a selective distribution network (for example: making approval for on-line sales by a distributor contingent on sale of the products in a brick and mortar shop by the same distributor that is not justified by the characteristics of the products; or imposing disproportionate quality standards in view of the nature of the products).