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European Commission raids online electronics stores

The European Commission has raided several companies which sell consumer electronics online on suspicion of illegal behavior. Also websites selling video games online were part of an investigation, because of possible geo-blocking of sales. The European Union is apparently working hard to help remove barriers to cross-border trade in the 28 European countries.


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Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner in charge of competition policy, announced last week a proposal to launch a competition inquiry in the ecommerce sector. “More and more goods and services are traded over the internet in Europe. At the same time, cross-border online sales within the EU are only growing slowly”, the press release reads. Vestager told how it has become normal to travel from, let’s say, Germany to Poland and take back home the goods you have bought during your trip, but that buying goods online is a lot more difficult. “We still have a number of digital borders. It is high time we removed these barriers, which keep Europe’s digital markets fragmented.”

15% ordered online in another EU country

According to the EC, while one in two European consumers shopped online last year, just 15% bought something online in another EU country because of restrictions such as language, different laws and anti-competitive behavior, Reuters writes. So, for Vestager it’s clear that remaining barriers to ecommerce need to be removed. She hopes to get the preliminary results next year. “It’s a long wait, but it reflects the scope of the inquiry”, she explained. The EU competition authority wants to send questionnaires to all EU countries and a number of companies.

One of the problems Vestager got her eyes on are the high delivery costs and differences in prices charged by online retailers for the same goods to consumers in different countries. Such anti-competitive barriers need to be identified and tackled, Vestager said.

This month, Vestager’s staff raided a number of online electronics stores on suspicion of illegal behavior. No names were shared, but there were both retailers as brand manufacturers from several EU countries involved. The European Comission thinks these companies have violated certain competition rules and have limited the competition in their sector. This may have been possible due to joint price fixing, something that’s a hot topic in Brussels. The European Commission doesn’t want to say which companies were involved or in which countries the raids took place. But it’s known companies who violate the rules can get a fine that could be worth the amount of 10% of their global turnover.

In May, the European Commission wants to unveil proposals to remove online sales barriers to promote growth in the digital economy.