ANTITRUST

European Commission Fines Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips, Pioneer

The European Commission announced on Tuesday (July 24) that it fined, in four separate decisions, consumer electronics manufacturers Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer for breaching EU competition rules.

In a press release, the European Commission accused those companies of imposing fixed or minimum resale prices on online retailers, which is anti-competitive. The fines, which totaled more than €111 million, were reduced in all four cases due to the companies’ cooperation with the Commission.

“The online commerce market is growing rapidly, and is now worth over 500 billion euros in Europe every year. More than half of Europeans now shop online. As a result of the actions taken by these four companies, millions of European consumers faced higher prices for kitchen appliances, hairdryers, notebook computers, headphones and many other products. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy. “Our decisions today show that EU competition rules serve to protect consumers where companies stand in the way of more price competition and better choice.”

According to the charges, the European Commission said that all four manufacturers restricted the ability of online retailers to set their own retail prices for consumer electronics that are widely used, such as kitchen appliances, notebooks and “hi-fi” products. What’s more, the Commission said that when online retailers offered their products at a lower price, they would intervene by threatening to place sanctions on them or block supplies of the product. Many of the online retailers use pricing algorithms to automatically adapt pricing to competitors.

All four of the companies cooperated with the European Commission by offering up evidence and by expressly acknowledging that they had run afoul of EU antitrust laws. As a result of that cooperation, the Commission granted reductions in the fines ranging from 40 percent for Asus, Denon & Marantz and Philips to 50 percent for Pioneer.

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