A few weeks ago, the German competition law regulator, the
'Bundeskartellamt', set out its preliminary view that the
way sports footwear manufacturer Asics distributed its products to
consumers restricted competition.
Many companies throughout the EU sell their products to
distributors usually through exclusive or selective supply
channels. In this instance, Asics was reported to be using a
selective distribution system. In summary, in selective
distribution systems the supplier (Asics) agrees to appoint
distributors according to specified criteria. There are additional
restrictions that can be imposed by suppliers like Asics on
distributors including the restriction of sales to unauthorised
One important restriction that the Commission and national
competition regulators have identified as a hot topic relates to
banning sales of products through particular internet platforms. In
this case, it is alleged that Asics banned their resellers from
using online marketplaces, eBay and Amazon to sell Asics
The German regulator believes such a ban would be classified as a
'hard-core' competition law restriction. Interestingly, it
is believed sportswear company Adidas is also under investigation
with regard to their online distribution agreements.
However, the Bundeskartellamt appears to have offered an
olive-branch to Asics and Adidas by stating that:
"If manufacturers have concrete questions on how to
create a selective distribution system in line with competition
law, the Bundeskartellamt is also available for discussions and to
This suggests that an amicable resolution to its investigation
may be possible. Indeed, Asics announced that it had already
started drafting changes to its current distribution system. It
appears likely that such an investigation will end in changes to
the way both sportswear companies sell their goods in the EU.
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