France: Distribution Sélective Et Internet : Après Les Produits De Luxe, Les Tronçonneuses

Last Updated: 9 November 2018
Article by Renaud Christol and Alexandra Berg-Moussa
Most Read Contributor in France, October 2018

La Cour de Justice de l'Union Européenne1CJUE ») et la Cour d'appel de Paris2 ont affirmé que les fournisseurs de produits de luxe peuvent interdire la distribution de leurs produits sur les plateformes tierces afin de préserver leur image et dans la mesure où cette interdiction est proportionnée3.

La position des autorités de concurrence au sujet des autres produits susceptibles d'être distribués sélectivement, les produits techniques, était attendue. La décision rendue le 24 octobre 2018 par l'Autorité de la concurrence4 (l'« Autorité ») vient, en partie, mettre fin à cette attente.

Elle condamne Stihl à une amende de 7 millions d'euros pour avoir interdit à ses distributeurs agréés de vendre les produits Stihl sur Internet et lui enjoint de modifier, dans un délai de trois mois, ses contrats de distribution sélective.

Les produits Stihl concernés (tronçonneuses, débroussailleuses, élagueuses, sécateurs à batterie) sont « des outils motorisés portables utilisés pour les travaux forestiers ou l'entretien d'espaces verts, dont le montage et le maniement peuvent s'avérer délicats » et présentent une certaine technicité voire dangerosité. Ces produits requièrent donc un « service d'assistance et de conseil afin d'en préserver la qualité et d'en assurer le bon usage ». C'est au regard de ce caractère de dangerosité que Stihl justifiait l'obligation de « mise en main complète de la machine » par le revendeur agréé à destination des acheteurs finaux, obligation qui conduisait à proscrire toute livraison par des tiers et à imposer un retrait du produit en magasin ou une livraison par le revendeur en personne au domicile de l'acheteur. L'Autorité considère que cette obligation supprimait les avantages de la vente en ligne et revenait en réalité à interdire ce canal de commercialisation aux revendeurs agréés. Pour les produits non dangereux, la vente en ligne était en revanche libre.

Pour l'Autorité, la technicité des produits justifie le recours à un réseau de distribution sélective.

En revanche, elle ne justifie pas que les distributeurs sélectionnés ne puissent pas vendre tous les produits (y compris ceux comportant une certaine dangerosité) sur leurs sites internet propres.

Pour l'Autorité, il n'existe pas en matière de règlementation nationale ou européenne d'« obligation de formation ou d'information par le seul biais d'un contact direct » de la part du revendeur sous couvert de la sécurité des consommateurs. Stihl n'a aucune obligation légale d'imposer une « mise en main physique ». Les concurrents de Stihl et les grandes surfaces de bricolage ne prévoient d'ailleurs pas une telle mise en main.

Or il peut être légitime pour un opérateur d'aller, pour le bien-être des consommateurs, au-delà des réglementations dès lors qu'il s'agit de produits dangereux. Il est également légitime de se différencier de ses concurrents par un service supplémentaire.

Surtout, la dangerosité des produits est admise par l'Autorité pour considérer que l'interdiction de revente sur les plateformes tierces est justifiée.

En d'autres termes, si le revendeur agréé possède un site propre, il doit pouvoir vendre tous les produits Stihl en ligne sur son site. En revanche, Stihl peut interdire à ses revendeurs agréés de revendre en ligne tous ses produits sur les plateformes tierces. S'agissant des produits non dangereux, l'Autorité considère que l'interdiction est appropriée en ce qu'elle permet au fournisseur de s'assurer de la provenance des produits vendus ainsi que de l'absence de contrefaçon ou malfaçons, mais également d'une présentation qualitative de ses produits sur internet. S'agissant des produits dits dangereux, l'interdiction semble également appropriée car, selon l'Autorité, elle permet fournisseur de s'assurer que la vente en ligne est assurée par un distributeur apte à garantir le fonctionnement des produits et la transmission des informations et conseils utiles à leur utilisation dans des conditions optimales de sécurité (y compris par exemple vidéos de présentation sur le site du revendeur agréé ou accès à une hotline opérée par le revendeur agréé).

Cette dissonance, ajoutée au traitement particulièrement sévère des gains d'efficacité avancés par Stihl (par exemple, l'Autorité considère que le gain représenté par un conseil personnalisé pour ces produits est limité car les consignes de sécurité et d'utilisation figurent dans la notice d'instructions...) relativisent grandement la portée de cette décision. En d'autres termes, même si l'Autorité reconnait expressément que « (...) l'analyse opérée par la Cour de justice dans l'arrêt Coty susvisé pour la commercialisation en ligne de produits de luxe paraît susceptible d'être étendue à d'autres types de produits.»5, les questions relatives aux interdictions de commercialisation sur internet ou sur les plateformes tierces restent entières pour les produits techniques.

Footnote

1 CJUE, 6 décembre 2017, affaire C-230/16 (affaire Coty).

2 Cour d'appel de Paris, Pôle 5 – chambre 4, 28 février 2018, n°16/02263.

3 Voir notre flash du 21 mars 2018 « Distribution sélective et places de marché : la Cour d'appel de Paris s'aligne sur la position de la CJUE ».

4 Décision de l'Autorité n°18-D-23 du 24 octobre 2018 relative à des pratiques mises en Suvre dans le secteur de la distribution de matériel de motoculture

5 Point 278 de la décision.

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