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Retail

EU Probes E-Commerce in Bid to Wipe Out Competition Barriers

Online retailers face an industry-wide probe from European Union antitrust regulators amid concerns Internet shoppers may be thwarted when they try to buy goods and services from websites outside their home country.

The European Commission sees "indications that some companies may be taking measures to restrict cross-border e- commerce” such as contracts or technical measures that prevent Europeans viewing websites based in another country, it said in an e-mailed press release. Information sought from the industry may trigger antitrust or cartel probes, it said.

"I can go to Italy and buy a pair of shoes but I am unable to do that from my home,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters at a press conference in Berlin.

“If I try to buy on the website I may be redirected” because online traders often discriminate on the basis of customers’ residence or web address, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters at a press conference in Berlin.

Preliminary results from the inquiry are due by mid-2016, Vestager said. The competition probe is part of a wider EU effort to stoke Europe’s digital economy and builds on an EU probe into online sales of consumer electronic and electrical products that saw them raid Samsung Electronics, Royal Philips NV and Metro AG’s Media-Saturn in 2014 and a Metro unit earlier this month.

Only 15 per cent of Europeans buy online from a seller based elsewhere in the 28-nation bloc and this shows that there are “significant cross-border barriers to e-commerce,” the EU said.

EU commissioners will be asked to approve the start of the antitrust inquiry in the coming weeks, Vestager said.

News by Bloomberg, edited by ESM

 

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