Competition policy and e-commerce after the EU Commission sector inquiry: What comes next?
The Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and Assonime are jointly organising a workshop in the context of the Florence Competition Programme. The event aims to gather academics, practitioners, officials from National Competitions Authorities (NCAs) and representatives of firms to discuss the role of competition policy enforcement in e-commerce in the light of the recent European Commission sector inquiry into e-commerce.
In spite of the economic crisis affecting Europe since 2008, e-commerce has been steadily growing over the past decade. From a competition policy perspective, e-commerce provides new opportunities for businesses and significant benefits for consumers. It broadens markets, widens consumers’ choice and leads to lower prices. At the same time, several undertakings responded to the challenges raised by the evolving market environment by means of contractual restrictions that raise competition concerns.
As pointed out by the European Commission in September 2016 in the preliminary report following its sector inquiry on e-commerce, there has been an increasing trend towards vertical integration and selective distribution. Online retailers often use geo-blocking to restrict cross-border online sales. Similarly, manufacturers increasingly monitor online sales by retailers and often include in their distribution agreements price and territorial restrictions, as well as bans on price comparison platforms and online marketplaces. Although these restrictions may be justified for legitimate reasons (e.g. prevention of free-riding and ensuring the quality of the distribution chain), they may also undermine one of the main objectives of the Digital Single Market Strategy – i.e. ensuring better online access for consumers and businesses to goods and services across the EU.
The sector inquiry raises a number of questions. Firstly, what economic insights can be drawn from the sector inquiry with reference to the choice between a by object or case-by-case analysis of vertical restraints and to the proper application of Article 101(3) TFEU. Secondly, since during the past decade NCAs have been more active than the EU Commission in the area of vertical restraints, sometimes with diverging approaches, a further question is to what extent the sector inquiry may contribute to a more consistent and effective application of competition rules within the European Competition Network (ECN). Finally, the sector inquiry analyses the impact of geographic restrictions in licensing agreements that make it more difficult to obtain access to digital content across the EU. A crucial issue in this regard concerns the interaction between competition and copyright law.
The participation fee is 250€.
The conference fee can be waived for academics, officials from NCAs as well as firms sponsoring either FCP or Assonime.
Representatives of Assonime and FCP Donors may be invited to speak at the event.
For further information on how to become a Donor of Florence Competition Programme please have a look here.