(Adds eBay comment, details)
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS May 10 The European Union plans to
launch more antitrust investigations into e-commerce companies
after a two-year inquiry uncovered business practices that
restrict competition, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
In its report on the initial inquiry, the EU executive said
it had found an increased use of contractual restrictions to
control product distribution, which could be in breach of EU
"Certain practices by companies in e-commerce markets may
restrict competition by unduly limiting how products are
distributed throughout the EU," Competition Commissioner
Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
The e-commerce sector inquiry is part of the European
Commission's campaign to overhaul the bloc's digital market in a
bid to boost growth and catch up with the United States and
The Commission collected about 8,000 distribution and
licence agreements and gathered information from retailers,
manufacturers, price comparison websites, e-commerce platforms
and providers of films, sports, fiction, TV and music.
"The insight gained from the sector inquiry will enable the
Commission to target EU antitrust enforcement in European
e-commerce markets, which will include opening further antitrust
investigations," the Commission said.
The EU executive found that manufacturers increasingly use
selective distribution systems where products can only be sold
by pre-authorised sellers, giving them more control over
distribution, price and brand image.
Almost half of the manufacturers using selective
distribution systems blocked pure online retailers, such as eBay
Inc, from selling their products.
The online shopping platform welcomed the report and
encouraged the Commission to launch targeted investigations.
"The report also shows that marketplace bans prevent a
significant number of small business entrepreneurs from selling
products on online marketplaces and that these bans harm
consumers by limiting choice, increasing prices and hindering
cross-border trade," said Paul Todd, senior vice president for
eBay in EMEA.
The report showed that almost 60 percent of providers of
digital content such as music, films and TV shows have agreed
with the copyright holder to geoblock, namely restricting
consumers' access to products and services based on where they
Some licensing practices may also make it more difficult for
new online business models and services to emerge, the
Commission said. It pointed to long-term licensing agreements
between rights holders and distributors as a possible barrier to
EU antitrust scrutiny of the pharmaceutical, energy and
financial services industries over the past decade prompted
investigations into companies in all three sectors.
(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by David