Keywords: European Commission, Geo-Blocking,
On 26 March 2015, the EU Commissioner in charge of competition
policy, Margrethe Vestager, announced plans to inquiry into the
e-commerce sector. The possibility of conducting sector inquiries
is provided for in Art. 12 of Council Regulation 17/62 which
allows the commission to conduct a general investigation into an
economic sector "[i]f in any sector of the economy the trend
of trade between Member States, price movements, inflexibility of
prices or other circumstances suggest that in the economic sector
concerned competition is being restricted or distorted within the
The proposed sector inquiry comes after the Commission's
believes that the e-commerce market is not working as well as it
should, and that breaches of competition law might be a
contributory factor. While the Commission's primary focus would
be on restrictive contractual provisions, it is also expected to
look at technical measures, such as "geo-blocking",
preventing customers from accessing websites on the basis of their
nationality, residence or credit-card details.
If approved, questionnaires would be sent to a broad range of
market players, including content rights holders, broadcasters,
manufacturers, online merchants and marketplace operators. The
information gathered in this way is supposed to help the Commission
to identify and understand the existing barriers to cross-border
e-commerce. It could also assist various legislative initiatives
facilitating the commission's broader agenda – a
"Digital Single Market". However, as promising as this
may sound, a sector inquiry is merely a preliminary step,
especially into the application of competition-law remedies.
Originally published June 17, 2015
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