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European Commission to Launch a Market Sector Inquiry Into E-Commerce

April 2015

The European Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has announced that it intends to launch a sector inquiry on e-commerce in May this year. The "Digital Single Market" is one of the top priorities of the Juncker's Commission and, hence, competition enforcement in the Single Digital Market is also a priority for Commissioner Vestager. As previously done for the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors, a market inquiry is a fact-finding exercise to help the Commission identify potential areas of concern in terms of competition law enforcement. In this case, the European Commission intends to focus on potential restrictions or distortions in online commerce.

We understand that the market inquiry will focus on distribution agreements, with particular regard to pricing, but geo-blocking and any other clauses restricting online cross-border trade of consumer products will also be targeted. Any company operating in the online sphere, in any sector whatsoever, is likely to receive a questionnaire from the Commission. This includes manufacturers, merchants of goods sold on line, companies that run online platforms, as well as holders of content rights and broadcasters. Based on the results of the inquiry, the Commission will determine whether further action is required and if so, which measures to take. Therefore, we recommend that companies respond to the Commission's questionnaire within the given timeframe.

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