Online sales push to simplify EU antitrust rules for manufacturers and distributors

European Union flags fly ahead of gas negotiations between the EU, Russia and Ukraine at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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BRUSSELS, May 10 (Reuters) – The rules governing agreements between manufacturers and distributors have been simplified due to the growth of online sales and the entry of new players such as online marketplaces, said on Tuesday. EU antitrust regulators.

The rules, called the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and Vertical Guidelines, will come into force on June 1 to replace the current set of rules which expire this month.

The new rules mean it will be easier for buyers to actively approach customers and for suppliers to set different wholesale prices for online and offline sales by the same distributor to incentivize or reward customers. investments.

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Agreements with sustainability objectives, such as exclusivity obligations to encourage investment in green power plants, also benefit from greater leeway.

The rules also stated that the criteria imposed by suppliers for online sales should not prevent the effective use of the Internet by the buyer or his customers to sell goods or services, an issue which in the past pitted brands against online platforms.

Illegal practices under the new rules include preventing a marketer from using an online advertising channel such as search engine advertising or comparison shopping services to attract customers to its website.

“The new rules will provide businesses with up-to-date guidance tailored to an even more digitized decade ahead,” European Commission digital chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Tech lobby group CCIA criticized the rules, saying they make it easier for big brands and vendors to discriminate against online sales channels.

“During the COVID shutdowns, many traditional businesses went online. Now the Commission wants them to go offline again,” CCIA policy officer Mathilde Adjutor said in a statement.

“With these changes, anti-competitive agreements that would be illegal for big brands and big merchants offline will effectively become legal online,” she said.

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Reporting by Foo Yun Chee Editing by Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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David A. Albanese