On the 10 May 2017, the EU Commission announced the end of their e-commerce sector inquiry. What is notable about the end of this inquiry is the lack of policy or new legislation following it. The Commission have ruled out any amendment of the Vertical Agreements Block Exemption, due for renewal in 2022. However, on an ominous note for some, the Commission have stated that following the conclusion of the inquiry, there will be further antitrust investigations into certain companies. These came about as a result of the Commission’s engagement with consumers and businesses. In effect the Commission views the inquiry as a successful fishing expedition for their fining of companies, mostly affirming the worries they had about selling online already.

Significantly, the Commission have already identified their concerns in the e-commerce space and proposed new legislation to combat geo-blocking. We reported at length on these developments when the Commission launched three simultaneous investigations into the use of geo-blocking by companies: http://eu-competitionlaw.com/eu-commission-gets-serious-about-geo-blocking/

Further, the Commission, separately to the inquiry, have also proposed new legislation to modernise copyright rules to increase the access to copyrighted material across borders. Both the copyright proposals and those regarding geo-blocking are currently with the European Parliament and Council.

What is notable in its absence is any proposal to combat the rise of price matching software. A particular headache for the Commission is companies using the software to unilaterally fix their prices. Again we reported on these developments previously: http://eu-competitionlaw.com/retailers-can-you-be-liable-for-cartel-behaviour-for-using-pricing-software-and-algorithms/

The Commission in their final report on e-commerce notes the issue of price matching software and how it can raise and hold prices rather than lower them, but does not propose any particular measure to address the behaviour. Perhaps the issue in new legislation would be the likely lack of evidence in finding intent for unilateral price fixing through software, even if such behaviour was prohibited. It would be hard to prove and perhaps overstep the line in curbing a company’s freedom to adjust and control its own resale prices.

The full report can be found by following this link: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/antitrust/sector_inquiry_final_report_en.pdf