On 30 November, Covington and Laurence Simons co-hosted a seminar on e-commerce in the EU for a variety of General Counsel from different industries.  E-commerce continues to grow rapidly in Europe and is expected to be worth more than €600 billion in 2017.  In this context, companies already active in the EU, or wishing to enter the European market, must familiarise themselves with the potential legal challenges ahead of them.

In his Keynote Speech on “The Digital Single Market and Competition Law”, Thomas Kramler – head of the Digital Single Market Task Force in DG COMP – discussed the main findings of DG COMP’s e-commerce sector inquiry, in relation to both consumer goods and digital content.  Mr Kramler particularly highlighted the increased price monitoring in the EU resulting from growing online price transparency and price competition.  He also addressed the impact of such developments on companies’ e-commerce distribution strategies including the implementation of (i) vertical integration strategies, (ii) selective distribution systems and (iii) vertical restraints (pricing, territorial and online sales restrictions).  In the broader context of the Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy, Mr Kramler also addressed the on-going geo-blocking reform and the Portability Regulation.

Following Mr Kramler’s speech, Covington’s panel of experts – consisting of Kevin Coates, Miranda Cole, Guy Dingley, Joshua Gray and Henriette Tielemans – illustrated how the evolving regulatory and legal issues have the potential to shape e-commerce strategies in Europe.  They used a hypothetical scenario, involving the introduction and sale of smart Internet of Things devices in Europe, to walk through the potential risks and implications for companies in relation to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, and the on-going e-commerce regulatory developments from a competition, tax and commercial law perspective.