E-Commerce Sector Inquiry

FTI Consulting discusses the E-Commerce Sector Inquiry announced by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

Strategic Communications

April 9, 2015

E-commerce businesses heard on 26 March 2015 that they will face a sector inquiry. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that a focus of the inquiry will be on identifying and addressing obstacles to creating a fully connected Digital Single Market. Vestager is set to table her proposal in May. So what are sector inquiries and what is the current e-commerce one all about?

Why this inquiry?

European citizens are enthusiastic users of online services. While more and more goods and services are traded over the internet in Europe, cross-border online sales within the EU are only growing slowly: in 2014 around half of all EU consumers shopped online, yet only around 15% of them bought from online vendors based in another EU Member State. While this is partly due to language barriers, consumer preferences and differences in legislation across Member States, there are also indications that some companies may be taking measures to restrict cross-border e-commerce.

The Commission has one main goal: to find out what is hampering competition in cross-border e-commerce sales. Targeted companies could include holders of content rights, broadcasters, manufacturers, online traders of physical goods, and companies that run online platforms such as price-comparison and marketplace websites. The Commission intends to gather information from a large number of stakeholders in all Member States, which will not only contribute to enforcing competition law in the e-commerce sector but also to planned legislative initiatives to boost the Digital Single Market. This is why this sector inquiry has been launched. It is expected to kick off in May 2015 and the first preliminary findings will be published in mid-2016.

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