Antitrust: Commission fines NBCUniversal €14.3 million for restricting sales of film merchandise products

The European Commission has fined several companies belonging to Comcast Corporation, including NBCUniversal LLC, (“NBCUniversal”) €14 327 000 for restricting traders from selling licensed merchandise within the European Economic Area (EEA) to territories and customers beyond those allocated to them. These restrictions concerned merchandise products featuring the Minions, Jurassic World and other images and characters from NBCUniversal’s films. In June 2017, the Commission opened an antitrust investigation into certain licensing and distribution practices of NBCUniversal to assess whether it illegally restricted traders from selling licensed merchandise freely within the EU Single Market. The Commission investigation has found that NBCUniversal (i) imposed a number of direct measures restricting out-of-territory sales by licensees, (ii) imposed a number of direct measures restricting sales beyond allocated customers or customer groups, (iii) imposed a number of direct measures restricting online sales, (iv) obliged licensees to pass on these sales restrictions to their customers, and (v) implemented a series of measures as an indirect way to encourage compliance with the sales restrictions. The Commission has concluded that NBCUniversal’s illegal practices partitioned the Single Market and prevented licensees in Europe from selling products cross-border and across customer groups, to the ultimate detriment of European consumers. Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This is the third decision dealing with sales restrictions on licensed products sold across Europe. Universal’s strategy to prevent traders from selling licensed products across customer groups and countries is against EU antitrust rules. Such sales restrictions undermine the very foundations of the EU Single Market and cannot be tolerated.” The full press release is available online in ENFRDE.