The European Competition Commissioner, Margarethe Vestager, announced last week that there will be a major competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in Europe. The purpose of the inquiry is to help the Commission to understand and tackle barriers to cross-border e-commerce. This is just the latest in a number of the EU's e-commerce investigations:
- In 2006 the Commission announced a major investigation into the online distribution of movies and games. The purpose of that inquiry was to enable the Commission to understand and identify and tackle remaining obstacles to competition in the online market.
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- In February 2014, the Commission commenced proceedings against a number of pay-TV service providers and major film studios including Sony Pictures, NBC Universal, Warner Bros and Paramount. That ongoing investigation is focussed on the licensing of content on an exclusive and territorial basis, often to a single broadcaster within each Member State. If current licensing practices are found to be unlawful, absolute territorial restrictions in licences will be unenforceable. The studios and pay-TV service providers could face fines and are likely to be forced to agree less restrictive licensing structures.
- And in the last few weeks, the Commission has sent questionnaires to major music labels seeking information on any agreements amongst themselves or with Apple in connection with streaming services, including licensing policies on free and advertising supported streaming.