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European Union Regulators Eye Antitrust Rules For eCommerce

 |  September 8, 2020

With the boom of eCommerce both before and during the pandemic, European Union regulators are taking another look at antitrust rules regarding internet sales and distribution platforms.

Online sales in such countries as Spain, an EU member, are expected to grow by 20 percent, according to eMarketer.

The European Commission, the EU’s arm for antitrust regulations, said in a press release that it will examine vertical block exemption regulations (VBER).

“The market has significantly changed, and (our) evaluation has identified a number of issues that need to be addressed,” said the commission’s Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy. The goal, she added, is “to ensure that the rules remain fit for a world that is increasingly digital and changing at a fast pace.”

The need for an update in these regulations is particularly “due to the growth of online sales and of new market players, such as online platforms,” said the commission. “New types of vertical restrictions, such as restrictions regarding sales through online marketplaces and restrictions on online advertising, as well as retail parity clauses, have become more widespread.”

In addition, the commission wants to look at price comparison websites.

This summer, the EU put out new rules aimed at Google that include regulations on data sharing and the operation of digital marketplaces. The new rules, under the Digital Services Act (DSA), could force Big Tech firms like Google to offer data access to smaller firms and abide by reasonable, standardized and non-discriminatory terms.

In another move targeting Big Tech, the EU is also looking at the issue of limiting “unfair contract terms,” which could target Amazon’s dual status as a marketplace for merchants as well as a competitor.

In addition, Google filed a lawsuit earlier this year after the EU levied a €2.4-billion ($2.6 billion) fine against the company, charging that it used its position in the online world to divert traffic to its own ads rather than the competition.