In November 2013, Commissioner Almunia delivered a speech at the London School of Economics entitled “Competition in the Online World”. Almunia set out his perception of the importance of competition law enforcement in the online sector, noting that “what happens in the online world today has important implications for virtually every other sector in the digital economy.” Clearly as he moves into the final months of his term, Almunia is keen to stress the significance of the online world.
Following his speech, on 5 December 2013, the Commission confirmed that it had initiated unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of a number of retailers of consumer electronic products and small domestic appliances. According to it press release found here, the Commission suspects that the companies in question may have put in place restrictions on online sales which may be anti-competitive.
The Commission’s focus on online sales is mirrored by national competition authorities. A number of authorities are particularly watching this space, including Germany’s Bundeskartellamt and the UK’s OFT. In its Annual Plan for 2013-14, the OFT stated that it would “continue to focus on online sales channels” on the basis that “online commerce brings many benefits for consumers and contributes to innovation and economic growth, but may also remain a significant area of potential consumer detriment.