E-Commerce

On 4 November 2018, the UK government and the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued a press release confirming that they will examine the practices of retailers that target online consumers and charge them different prices for the same product through personalised pricing.  Their research will cover a range of products sold online “such as holidays, cars and household goods”.  The announcement is unsurprisingly silent as to whether legislative changes or changes to the CMA’s enforcement policy will result.

This is the latest in a line of UK government and CMA initiatives regarding personalised pricing.  On 31 October 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) announced an investigation into personalised pricing for motor and home insurance policies after finding that insurance companies were price discriminating between customers; and on 8 October 2018, the CMA published a Working Paper on the ‘use of pricing algorithms to facilitate collusion and personalised pricing’ (see our recent Covington Competition Blog post).

Continue Reading UK Government and CMA research whether online customers are targeted through personalised pricing

The European Commission (“Commission”) recently fined Denon & Marantz, Asus, Pioneer and Philips (the “Individual Parties”) a total of EUR 111 million for restricting the ability of online retailers to set retail prices for their products – a hard-core restriction under EU competition law known as “resale price maintenance” or “RPM” (the “Infringement Decisions”). These Infringement Decisions are noteworthy because: (i) they are the first e-commerce infringement decisions since the Commission’s 2017 Final Report on its e-commerce sector inquiry; and (ii) the last ‘traditional’ RPM fine imposed by the Commission was fifteen years ago in Po/Yamaha COMP/37.975 (16 July 2003).

Continue Reading The European Commission Publishes Summary Decisions for On-line Resale Price Maintenance Infringements

On 15 May 2018, Johan Ysewyn and Maria Jaspers (DG COMP) presented on recent major developments in the area of EU cartel enforcement at the Advanced Competition Law Conference in London.

Their annual dual-presentation covered the traditional three pillars of enforcement, policy and court review. The topics covered in this latest instalment included:

  • A review

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has just released a 75-page Green Paper on Modernising Consumer Markets, setting out the Government’s main priorities for the digital economy in a post-Brexit Britain. The Green Paper reflects on the current state of consumer markets and regulation, and lays down the key challenges and opportunities which will be the focus of the UK’s regulatory and competitive framework going forward. This poses consultation questions to stakeholders on hot topics in digital markets, including questions on: the adequacy of the current competition rules and privacy protections, supporting consumer-friendly innovation, use of and access to big data, whether personalised pricing should be regulated, sufficiently protecting customers without stifling innovation, and alternative dispute resolution solutions.

It also includes various proposals to ensure new technology and data are used to benefit customers, strengthen national enforcement of consumer rights, modernise the approach taken by regulators, and improve consumers’ access to alternative dispute resolution services. In this Covington blog post, we explore some of the key messages and questions posed by the Green Paper.

Continue Reading The UK Government Seeks Views on the Regulation of Digital Markets for a Post-Brexit Great Britain

On 10 May 2017 the European Commission published its Final Report on the E-commerce Sector Inquiry (the “Report”).  The Commission’s E-commerce Sector Inquiry, launched on 6 May 6 2015 as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy, gathered evidence from nearly 1,900 companies connected with the online sale of consumer goods and digital content.  The Commission published its initial findings on geo-blocking in an issues paper in March 2016, and its Preliminary Report in September 2016.  The Final Report sets out the Commission’s definitive findings from the Sector Inquiry.


Continue Reading The European Commission Publishes its Final Report on the E-commerce Sector Inquiry

On 5 April 2017, the Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court confirmed the August 2015 decision of the Federal Cartel Office finding that it is anti-competitive and therefore illegal to impose on distributors a general prohibition on the use of online price comparison portals.

The Cartel Office had faulted Asics over imposing the following restrictions on its distributors: (1) a complete ban on the use of online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon; (2) restricting supporting price comparison engines; (3) prohibiting the use of the Asics brand names on third party websites; and (4) the very detailed segmentation of distributors into more than 20 categories, and resulting restrictions on cross-deliveries to other authorised distributors in other categories and on the product ranges for supply to final customers.


Continue Reading ASICS’ ONLINE SALES RESTRICTIONS CONFIRMED AS ILLEGAL BY DUESSELDORF HIGHER REGIONAL COURT