Vertical restraints are agreements between different entities in a supply chain - such as a manufacturer and retailer - that relate to the conditions under which the parties may purchase, sell or resell certain goods or services. One example of a vertical restraint is selective distribution. Whilst vertical restraints may be legitimately used to make product supply more efficient, there are many cases where eBay sellers suffer unfair and unjustified restrictions on online sales. These are designed to limit the availability of some products, with the aim of keeping prices high and denying competition that delivers choice to consumers.
Position on Selective Distribution
eBay does not question the use of selective distribution per se. We advocate clarifications to the rules so that selective distribution is only used to promote competition and the consumer interest, rather than a means to impose unjustified restrictions on online trading.
eBay believes that policy should promote innovative, consumer-friendly e-commerce businesses. We oppose any calls for e-commerce sites only to be allowed for those companies who have a brick-and-mortar shop. Such restrictions would only serve to protect inefficient business models and act as a barrier to consumer-orientated, online-focused businesses in Europe.
eBay welcomes proposals to clarify that online sales bans can only be allowed on health and safety grounds. We also welcome proposals that restrictions on the way goods are sold online must be objective and equivalent to restrictions in how goods are sold offline (for example, branding or product information requirements). But the fundamental principle must remain that online sales be allowed to prosper. The popularity of e-commerce for clothes, cosmetics and jewelry, along with continued growth in sales of consumer electronics, books and media, illustrates that consumers want and expect to buy these goods online. Businesses who respond to consumer demand should be allowed to prosper.
Find out more about eBay's position on the consultation of the European Commission review of the Vertical Restraints guidelines here.
What do eBay users think?
eBay asked its European users to comment on this topic in the summer of 2009. We had an overwhelming response of 750,000 petition signatures calling on the European Commission to break down unfair trade barriers within the EU.