EU Report Could Mean More Antitrust Investigations of E-Commerce Companies in Europe

A report detailing the findings of a two-year EU investigation into e-commerce business practices released late last week promises more antitrust proceedings against e-commerce companies that restrict competition through unfair distribution practices. The European Commission report and the investigation focused mainly on the problems that have developed as manufacturers try to control distribution networks in the face of the increased price transparency that has arisen as more people compare products and shop online. This manifested itself in “geo-blocking,” where some products were denied to certain countries entirely, and in manufacturers sometimes not making products available for sale through pure online retailers.

According to the report, nearly half of the manufacturers using this “selective distribution” approach blocked pure online retailers, such as eBay, from selling their products. Paul Todd, senior vice president for eBay in EMEA, told Reuters the company welcomed the report and any additional investigations that resulted.

“The report 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,” he said.

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