EU raids online retailers over cartel concerns

British shoppers already spend almost £1 in every £5 of their shopping via the Internet. [Wikimedia]

The European Commission said Tuesday (24 March) its officers had raided several companies involved in selling consumer electronics online, concerned that firms may have worked together to distort prices.

“The European Commission can confirm that on 10 March 2015, Commission officials initiated unannounced inspections in several member states at the premises of a number of companies active in the online sale of consumer electronics and consumer electrical products,” the Commission, which is the EU’s antitrust regulator, told Reuters in an email.

“The Commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements or concerted practices.”

It did not give the names or locations of the companies inspected by its officers.

Traditional electronics retailers compete fiercely with online rivals such as Amazon. The EU antitrust regulator can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global revenue for breaking EU rules.

Antitrust rules are contained in various legal instruments. The basic (and brief) provisions are contained in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. A number of regulations have later been adopted, either by the Council or the Commission. Some of these regulations contain the general rules for the implementation of the Treaty provisions laying down, among others, the investigative powers of the Commission. Other regulations deal either with particular types of conduct or with specific sectors.

Finally, the Commission has adopted various non-regulatory documents, which may take various forms (notices, guidelines, etc). Such documents are intended to explain in more detail the policy of the Commission on a number of issues, either relating to the interpretation of substantive antitrust rules or to procedural issues, such as access to the file. [read more]

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