Antitrust: Commission publishes preliminary report on e-commerce sector inquiry

The European Commission has published a preliminary report on its e-commerce sector inquiry, confirming the fast growth of e-commerce in the EU and identifying business practices that might restrict competition and limit consumer choice. The Commission launched the e-commerce sector inquiry in May 2015 in the context of its Digital Single Market strategy. The objective of the sector inquiry is to allow the Commission to identify possible competition concerns in European e-commerce markets. During the inquiry, the Commission has gathered evidence from nearly 1 800 companies operating in e-commerce of consumer goods and digital content and has analysed around 8 000 distribution contracts. 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.  Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “E-commerce has become important for consumers and it has significant impact on the business and strategies of companies. Businesses should have the freedom to determine their sales strategies online. At the same time, antitrust authorities must ensure that they do not engage in anti-competitive business practices. These practices can prevent European consumers from reaping the full benefits of e-commerce in terms of greater choice and lower prices.”