On 24 March 2010, the French Competition Authority (the
"Authority") launched a market test following commitments
proposed by HighCo, Sogec and Perifem. HighCo and Sogec are
companies offering services linked to online discount coupons
("e-coupons") that consumers can use in distributors'
retail stores. They also deal with the only two clearing centres in
charge of reimbursement of e-coupons in France. Perifem is an
association embodying French distributors.
Unlike paper coupons, e-coupons were not 'safeguarded'
and distributors therefore requested, through Perifem, a guarantee
that they would be reimbursed for e-coupons. A working group
composed of Perifem, HighCo and Sogec then created a standard for
safeguarding e-coupons, also known as the
However, the Authority pointed out that there were several
competition issues relating to the Webcoupon scheme:
Industrial advertisers, which promote e-coupons for their own
products, were not allowed to be part of the working group;
HighCo and Sogec were putting pressure on distributors to make
them use Webcoupon by threatening not to reimburse them if they did
Webcoupon could not be used by HighCo's and Sogec's
Alternative standard offers were restrained and not promoted by
HighCo and Sogec unreasonably favoured distributors using
The Authority underlined that creating a standard that is not
available to competitors restricts competition. Moreover, the
Authority noticed that a difference in treatment between (i)
Webcoupons and (ii) e-coupons that do not comply with this standard
is an abuse of a dominant position.
As part of their commitments, HighCo and Sogec propose to
publish the specifications for safeguarding e-coupons, to treat all
coupons equally (e-coupons and paper coupons), to allow the
development of new alternative standards and permit Perifem to
participate in the creation and evolution of these new
Any party interested in making a comment on these commitments
can present its observations to the Authority before 26 April
To view Community Week, Issue 465 - 1 April 2010 in full,
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