EU sector inquiry into eCommerce begins

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BVOH President Prothmann calls on all online retailers to participate

In an sector inquiry, the EU Commission is questioning online retailers about “competition obstacles to eCommerce within European markets”. This week many online retailers in Germany, France and the United Kingdom have received this EU questionnaire. “We ask all those traders that have received this to join in and make their voices heard!” Here we have a unique opportunity to do something about obstacles and restrictions in eCommerce. The more extensive the information gathered, the more comprehensive EU action can be. If you have any questions, we at the BVOH are available”, says Oliver Prothmann, President of the Federal Association of eCommerce (BVOH).

eMail Subject: European Commission – Request for information – Case No COMP/HT.4607 – E-commerce Sector Inquiry – questionnaire to Retailers EN

From: []

Sent: Thursday, July 09, 2015 4:22 PM
To: Company X

DG Competition
Directorate C – TF

Brussels, 09/07/2015 * 2015/067576

Subject: Case No COMP/HT.4607– E-commerce Sector Inquiry – Questionnaire to Retailers – Request for information

Please quote this reference in all correspondence


Dear Madam/Sir,

On 6 May 2015, the Commission adopted a decision (C(2015) 3026 final) on the basis of Article 17 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, to launch a sector inquiry into e-commerce in the European Union.

This letter is a formal request for information made in accordance with Article 18(1) and (2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, which empowers the Commission to require undertakings and associations of undertakings to provide all necessary information whether or not they are suspected of any infringement of the competition rules.

In line with Article 23 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, the Commission may impose fines on undertakings that supply incorrect or misleading information.

In line with Article 28 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, the information collected during the sector inquiry shall be used only for the purposes of that sector inquiry.

You will be able to access the formal request for information letter addressed to your organization in the Equestionnaire application.

Your reply to this request for information must reach the Commission no later than 07/09/2015.

You will find the details granting access to your questionnaire below:

Website URL: xxx

Login: yyy

Password: zzz

For security reasons, you will be asked to change the password at your first login attempt. The above initial password is unique to each addressee and should not be given to anyone who does not have authority to submit a formal response to the request for information on behalf of the addressed organization.

Please note that submitting a response to the electronic questionnaire using the included username and password constitutes a formal response to the request for information on behalf of the addressee named in the letter.

Should you have a question or encounter technical difficulties with the online questionnaire, please send an e-mail to

Thank you in advance for your assistance and effort in replying to this questionnaire.


Yours faithfully,

[signed] Thomas Kramler

Deputy Head of Unit


The Equestionnaire application provides respondents with a modern, secure and efficient web-based workspace to submit their reply the Commission. To ensure the security of the information provided, the website uses the HTTPS protocol with 256-Bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption technology.

This email was automatically generated, please do not reply.

The EU investigation aims to determine how widespread the obstacles are and what impact do they have on competition within eCommerce?

This sector inquiry wants to establish whether anti-competitive situations exist, for example through restrictions by the manufacturer, market places, etc. On the basis of sound evidence, the Commission can then open up an investigation to tackle trade barriers and anti-competitive behaviour. “European citizens face too many barriers to accessing goods and services online across borders. Some of these barriers are put in place by companies themselves. With this sector inquiry my aim is to determine how widespread these barriers are and what effects they have on competition and consumers. If they are anti-competitive we will not hesitate to take enforcement action under EU antitrust rules”, says EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in Brussels. “We expressly welcome Ms Vestager’s initiative, because manufacturer restrictions create a heavy burden for many online retailers – and not only in Germany”, says Oliver Prothmann.

Online survey on obstacles within online trading

Selected online retailers across Europe will receive an online questionnaire from the Commission’s Digital Single Market Task Force. Answers in eight different sections are sought: company data; restrictions at online shop, marketplaces, price comparison sites; restrictions imposed by manufacturers; international trade; pricing; geo-blocking; shipping and payment methods.

The BVOH has actively supported the EU-Commission from the outset and is in close contact with the project team. Because the questions are very complex, the BVOH is available to help online retailers if required with help and advice – all confidential of course on +49 30 49876660 or via e-mail at

Even if you don´t have questions please share that you received it.

If you are affected by online restrictions and didn´t get an eMail from EU-Commission
please ask for the questionaire:

Restrictions – what’s it all about?

Internet marketplaces are also affected by manufacturer restrictions because selling by many online retailers is prohibited by industry. Such unilateral bans on selling by individual manufacturers threaten jobs and the very existence of retailers. These bans cut the distributors off from their often most important sales channel thus denying them the possibility to use inexpensive and popular online platforms in a competitive marketplace, thus benefiting customers. In this way, consumers are denied the advantage of transparent pricing and the additional range of choice offered by eCommerce.

Press Release: 150715_EU_sector_inquiry_final

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