E-commerce companies face EU antitrust probe

A broad probe into Europe's e-commerce sector will show whether companies are restricting cross-border purchases

The European Commission plans a competition inquiry into cross-border trading by companies such as Amazon.com.

The inquiry, proposed by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Thursday, will focus on possible restrictions on cross-border purchases, by which companies prevent people from buying goods in other European Union countries. One of the founding principles of the EU is the free movement of goods.

Technical barriers such as geoblocking as well as distribution contracts hampering the cross border sale of goods and digital content will be a primary focus of the inquiry, Vestager said in a speech delivered in Berlin on Thursday. She plans to send questionnaires to a large number of firms in every EU country, including merchants of online goods, companies running online market places and price comparison sites, broadcasters, manufacturers and content rights holders.

The proposal for an inquiry is also closely linked to plans for an overall digital strategy in the EU, outlined by the Commission on Wednesday. To unite Europe as a digital single market, the Commission wants to abolish geoblocking and simplify cross-border shopping rules.

"Several Commission departments are working on the Digital Single Market at the moment. Understanding and facilitating cross-border online commerce is an important part of the contribution of the competition department," Vestager said.

She will propose the inquiry to the Commission in May and if everything goes to plan preliminary findings could be published online in mid-2016. If the Commission has specific competition concerns after the inquiry, it could open antitrust investigations to ensure compliance with EU rules on restrictive business practices and abuse of dominant market positions.

Online electronics retailers are already being investigated by the Commission for possible anticompetitive agreements, though that antitrust investigation is independent from the sector inquiry proposal, a Commission official said.

Earlier this month, Commission antitrust officials conducted unannounced raids at suspected companies, following raids in December 2013 which involved Samsung Electronics, Philips and electronics retailer Media-Saturn, among other companies.

This time though, Samsung and Philips were not among the raided companies, staff reached at those companies said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags legalantitrusteuropean commission

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?