European Union: European Commission Fines Consumer Electronics Manufacturers €111 Million For Online Pricing Restrictions

Last Updated: August 22 2018
Article by Becket McGrath and Christine Graham

On 24 July 2018, the European Commission announced that it had fined four consumer electronics manufacturers – Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer – a total of €111 million (c.$126 million) for imposing fixed or minimum resale prices (resale price maintenance or RPM) on European retailers in breach of EU competition law. In addition, the Commission ruled that Pioneer unlawfully limited cross-border sales.

While these decisions reflect long-standing hostility in EU competition law to the imposition of RPM and territorial restrictions in distribution agreements, they are significant as this is the first time that the Commission has imposed fines for such practices since 2003. As such, they mark a notable return by the Commission to this area of enforcement, which it had largely left to Member State authorities over recent years. The decisions are also interesting for their analysis of the role of price monitoring software and repricing tools in policing, and amplifying the effect of, pricing restrictions.

The infringements

The Commission found that each consumer electronics manufacturer infringed the EU's prohibition of anticompetitive agreements by restricting the ability of retailers to set their own retail prices when selling products online. In each case, the Commission found that the manufacturer specifically targeted online retailers who discounted their products and threatened sanctions, such as blocking supply, if they did not increase their prices.

According to the Commission's press release, the individual infringement decisions state that:

  • Asus monitored the resale price of certain computer hardware and electronics products, such as notebooks and displays, in Germany and France between 2011 and 2014 and intervened when retailers sold products below its recommended prices by requesting price increases;
  • Denon & Marantz engaged in RPM with respect to audio and video products, such as headphones and speakers, in Germany and the Netherlands between 2011 and 2015;
  • Philips engaged in RPM in France between the end of 2011 and 2013 with respect to a range of consumer electronics products, including kitchen appliances, coffee machines, vacuum cleaners, home cinema and home video systems, electric toothbrushes, hair driers and trimmers; and
  • Pioneer engaged in RPM with respect to home theatre products, iPod speakers, speaker sets and hi-fi products, as well as imposing cross-border sales restrictions in order to sustain different resale prices in different countries. Pioneer's conduct lasted from the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2013 and affected 12 EEA countries (Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway).

The Commission punished the manufacturers for this conduct by imposing fines of €63.5 million, €7.7 million, €29.8 million and €10.2 million, respectively. Each manufacturer benefited from a reduction in fines of between 40% and 50% by cooperating with the Commission's investigation and acknowledging the infringement. Interestingly, none of the retailers that implemented the manufacturers' pricing demands were fined, even though they will have been technically parties to the infringements.


While all four decisions appear to be based on long-standing case law that categorises RPM and cross-border sales restrictions as serious infringements of EU competition law, the fact that the Commission has issued them is in itself significant. Although the Commission used to be highly active in enforcement against vertical restraints, decentralisation of EU competition law enforcement in 2004 saw it effectively leaving such cases to the national competition authorities (NCAs) of the EU Member States. The Commission's return to this area was heavily trailed in its May 2017 Final Report on the E-commerce Sector Inquiry, as well as by its earlier announcement of a raft of investigations of vertical agreements, including these four cases.

Notwithstanding this build-up, it remains remarkable to see the Commission taking on three cases that could easily have been taken by NCAs, given their relatively limited geographical scope. This seems especially odd given the well-established framework for case allocation and the extensive experience of the German and French competition authorities in bringing RPM cases. These cases must, therefore, be seen as reflecting a deliberate policy decision by the Commission to signal a return to the fray on vertical restraints. Meanwhile, investigations into distribution agreements for PC video games and licensed merchandise products remain ongoing. The Commission is also investigating whether various restrictive distribution and rebate practices by a brewer led to abusive market segmentation. So it is safe to assume that vertical restraints will remain an enforcement focus for the Commission for the forseeable future.

The Commission presumably also viewed these cases as an attractive opportunity for it to take a position on the role of price monitoring and repricing software and thereby build on general comments contained in the E-commerce Sector Inquiry Final Report. Rather than viewing the use of such software as a component part of the infringing conduct, the Commission appears to have examined it as part of the factual context.

Specifically, the Commission was concerned that manufacturers' use of price monitoring tools enabled them to identify retailers' non-compliance with pricing 'recommendations' more rapidly. It was also concerned that the widespread use of repricing tools by online retailers meant that manufacturers could ensure that targeted enforcement of pricing requirements against specific retailers had a wider impact. This is because the use of such software meant that manufacturers could focus their RPM efforts on a small number of lower priced retailers in the confident expectation that their return to 'compliant' pricing would be rapidly reflected across the market, as a result of the software's response. Although full details will have to wait until publication of the text of the Commission's decisions, there appears to have been no attempt by the Commission to argue that the use of such software, let alone its provision, is itself infringing conduct.

This case provides a high-profile reminder for businesses selling in Europe that they must not attempt to dictate the price at which products are resold by retailers.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions