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EC launches three investigations over suspected anticompetitive practices in e-commerce

RBR Staff Writer Published 03 February 2017

The European Commission (EC) has opened three separate investigations into suspected anticompetitive practices in e-commerce.

The probes will assess if various online sales practices prevent, in breach of EU antitrust rules, consumers from enjoying cross-border choice and being able to purchase consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation at competitive prices.

Under the EC scanner in consumer electronics are Asus, Denon & Marantz, Pioneer and Philips who have been suspected by the regulator for breaching EU competition rules. This, it states so, by limiting the ability of online retailers to fix their own prices for commonly used consumer electronics products like household appliances, hi-fi products and notebooks.

In the video games sector, the EC is looking into bilateral agreements between Steam game distribution platform owner Valve Corporation and five PC video game publishers namely Bandai Namco, Capcom, ZeniMax, Focus Home and Koch Media.

The EC in this regard is concerned with geo-blocking practices, where customers are prevented by firms from buying digital content like PC video games, citing either the consumer's location or country of living.

In the hotel segment, the EC is acting after complaints from customers. It is looking into agreements relating to hotel accommodation between major European tour operators Kuoni, REWE, TUI and Thomas Cook and hotels like Meliá Hotels on the other hand.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said: "E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders. The three investigations we have opened today focus on practices where we suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers.

“The cases concern the consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation sectors. More specifically, we are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location."

Image: European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. Photo: courtesy of Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Interior/Wikipedia.