Selective Distribution

At a Glance

eBay believes policymakers should support ecommerce as a key driver of competition and consumer choice. But some manufacturers erect unfair barriers to online commerce – in the form of selective distribution rules - in an effort to hinder competition and restrict consumer choice.

  • Online commerce gives consumers more shopping options
  • Vertical restraints unfairly restrict eBay Inc. sellers’ ability to sell online
  • Clarifications to selective distribution rules would benefit consumers
  • 750,000 European eBay Inc. users petitioned the EU to break down unjust trade barriers in 2009
  • More than 14.000 EU online merchants called for effective measures against platform bans.
  • The German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) and several German courts have been highly critical w/r to platform bans.   

Issue in Detail

The great benefit of the Internet is the way in which it gives the initiative to consumers. Online shopping offers an alternative to many people from high-street shopping and it expands the selection of goods available to purchase. For other consumers, it may be the ONLY way to access certain products, because they are not available in the area in which they live. eBay believes policymakers should support ecommerce as a key driver of competition and consumer choice. However, some manufacturers believe this will threaten their profit margins and therefore erect unfair barriers to online commerce, in an effort to hinder competition and restrict consumer choice.

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 – preventing small businesses from accessing distribution and technology that they need to reach broader customer bases. These restrictions 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 ecommerce businesses. We oppose any calls for ecommerce only to be allowed on specific online-shops and not on open marketplaces. Such restrictions would act as a barrier to consumer-orientated, online- and mobile-focused businesses in Europe.

eBay welcomes the current activities of the EU-Commission to investigate barriers in ecommerce, mainly platform bans, in its E-Commerce Sector Inquiry. Moreover, eBay welcomes court rulings that clearly state that platform bans are illegal. Online Merchants should be able to use modern distribution channels, like open marketplaces, if they wish to do so.