Today, the French Competition Authority (Autorité de la
concurrence) has imposed a EUR 0.9 million fine on Bang &
Olufsen France and its Danish parent company for having prohibited
their French dealers from selling the brand's products
The Decision sets out that B&O's distribution contract
for France, which dates back to 1989 and provides for selective
distribution, contains a clause prohibiting distance selling.
B&O did not address e-tail in that contract, but in a separate
letter issued in 2000 to all of its 48 French dealers. In that
letter, B&O indicated that a certain category of dealers could
apply for a separate page on B&O's global website, subject
to approval by B&O, and that any reference to B&O on the
dealers' own sites should be limited to statements to the
effect that the dealer is entitled to distribute B&O products
and to provide advice on these products from its brick and mortar
outlets. The letter also contained a prohibition to use B&O
logo's and trade marks on the dealers' own websites.
B&O concluded the letter by requesting the dealers to comply
with its contents and by stating that it was firmly determined to
impose its terms.
In its Decision, the Autorité de la concurrence holds
that these measures result, de facto, in a ban on internet sales.
It points out that B&O's global site does not contain a
single dealer page and that dealers are in effect barred from
selling B&O products on their own sites. The Autorité
goes on to refer to the ECJ's preliminary reference judgment of
13 October 2011 in the Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmétique Case
confirming that a clause in a selective distribution contract
preventing dealers from selling their products online amounts to a
restriction of competition by object, unless that clause is
objectively justified. It therefore finds that the de facto ban put
in place by B&O in France infringes French and EU competition
The Autorité not only imposed a fine, but also ordered
B&O France to amend its distribution contracts within three
months so as to make it clear that its dealers are authorised to
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