Suppliers that seek to restrict online sales via third party platforms (e.g.
eBay, Amazon) risk being found to have infringed the EU antitrust rules.
The EU Commission's guidelines on vertical arrangements suggest that a
supplier may ban sales over those platforms by requiring that customers do not
visit the distributor's website through a site carrying the name or logo of the
third party platform. However, in practice, such restrictions are being
investigated and struck down.
In Germany, headphone-maker Sennheiser was recently forced by the Federal
Cartel Office (FCO) to change the terms of its online-distribution contracts
that prevented the authorized dealers of Sennheiser's selective distribution
system from selling products over the internet platform Amazon Marketplace.
Since Sennheiser had appointed Amazon as one of its authorised dealers, the sale
by other authorised dealers over Amazon's platforms could not be prohibited.
Also in Germany, Japanese sports-shoe supplier Asics was forced by the FCO to
change its online strategy which banned trading over certain third party
platforms, including eBay and Amazon.
And the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently gathering
information about how suppliers of branded and luxury goods restrict online
sales. At this stage, the CMA is engaged only in gathering information.
However, previous experience of such exercises suggests that it is likely to
spark further and more detailed investigations.