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EU Competition Commissioner proposes a competition Inquiry in the e-commerce sector

On 26 March 2015, the European Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, announced a potential competition inquiry in the e-commerce sector. According to the Commission, the proposed inquiry is aimed at identifying and resolving cross-border barriers to e-commerce in digital content and goods, including technical barriers such as geo-blocking. The Commissioner plans to put forward the proposal in the coming weeks to the Commission, and envisages that the preliminary results would be available in mid-2016.

As part of the inquiry, the EU Commission (the "Commission") intends to collect information from a large number of companies across the EU, including holders of content rights, broadcasters, manufacturers, online merchants, and companies running online platforms such as price-comparison and marketplace websites. As in past inquiries, a sector inquiry will often result in cases which the EC elects to bring. Thus, the Commission may also pursue cases against individual companies for suspected infringements of the EU competition rules.

The Commission's proposed inquiry follows the Commission's investigations of individual companies in the sector, most recently in relation to restrictions on online sales of consumer electronic products over the internet, where the Commission has carried out inspections at large manufacturers’ and online retailers’ premises, and an investigation into the alleged geo-blocking of certain video games sold online for personal computers.

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