Publication of a study on e-commerce and competition law

E-commerce is an essential distribution channel with specific features to which the competition authorities had to adapt. Reflections on the impact of e-commerce has never been more relevant than today, as the global COVID-19 health crisis has boosted online sales. 

In this context, the French Competition Authority (FCA)’s study entitled “Competition & e-commerce” constitutes a reference guide for companies active in the e-commerce sector as it provides:

  • an analysis of the competition dynamics in the e-commerce: the study highlights the impact of e-commerce on distribution models, with the emergence of new types of players, new products/services and new consumer behaviours that could not exist before the massive use of digital services. This led the FCA to adapt its analytical framework to assess the various competitive constraints, in particular by identifying more and more frequently relevant markets which cover both online and offline sales.

  • an overview of the main anti-competitive behaviours in the e-commerce sector and in particular: (i) practices aimed at limiting the attractiveness of online sales in order to promote offline distribution, (ii) practices that reduce the competitive intensity between e-commerce operators (e.g. price parity clauses) and (iii) emerging forms of behaviours with a more uncertain anticompetitive nature, e.g. those involving algorithms or big data.

In conclusion of its study, the FCA states that its current analytical framework is flexible enough to capture behaviours that are specific to the e-commerce sector. However, it stresses the need to develop further technical, legal and economic expertise in this area, in particular through the creation of dedicated units within competition authorities. In this respect, the FCA has set up a Digital Economy Unit in early 2020.

For more information, the FCA’s press release is available here (in English) and the full study here (in English).

For more information contact Florence Leroux or Eliott Costet.

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