EC publishes preliminary e-commerce sector report

The European Commission (EC) has published its preliminary report for its e-commerce sector inquiry. The inquiry confirmed the fast growth of e-commerce in the EU though it has identified a number of business practices that may restrict competition and limit consumer choice in the EU.

In a statement issued today, the EC said: “The Report identifies business practices that may raise competition concerns. The Commission may open case specific investigations to ensure compliance with EU rules on restrictive business practices and abuse of dominant market positions.”

The EC continued: “Manufacturers increasingly use contractual sales restrictions in their distribution agreements. The report finds that:

• over two in five retailers face some form of price recommendation or price restriction from manufacturers;

• almost one in five retailers are contractually restricted from selling on online marketplaces;

• almost one in ten retailers are contractually restricted from submitting offers to price comparison web sites;

• over one in ten retailers report that their suppliers impose contractual restrictions on cross-border sales.”

The EC commented: “All these types of contractual sales restrictions may, under certain circumstances, make cross-border shopping or online shopping in general more difficult and ultimately harm consumers by preventing them from benefiting from greater choice and lower prices in e-commerce.”

The Preliminary Report is now open to public consultation for the next two months. The EC  expects to publish the Final Report in the first quarter of 2017. Regardless of the UK’s presence or lack of it this will have an impact on UK e-commerce business as well as that of delivery companies.