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EuroCommerce response to consultation on draft vertical rules

EuroCommerce welcomes the opportunity offered by the European Commission to comment on the draft Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and Guidelines (‘VBER’ and ‘VGL’) published on 9 July 2021.  

EuroCommerce  represents  the  retail  and  wholesale  sector  in  Europe.  Our  members  are  active  as distributors in the supply chain as buyers, sellers and resellers to other businesses (industry or retail) or  end  users  (consumers) online, offline  and omnichannel.  The  VBER  and  VGL are  an  indispensable source  for  shaping  and  adapting  the  vertical  relations  of  our  members  with  their  suppliers  and customers as they provide the necessary legal certainty.

Key messages
•  EuroCommerce stresses the importance of strong competition in the Single Market as the best way  of  achieving  global  competitiveness  and  ensuring  that  both  business  customers  and consumers continue to have a wide choice of innovative and affordable products and services; this  includes  the  need  for  consistent  enforcement  of  competition  rules  by  the  European
Commission and National Enforcement Authorities;
•  EuroCommerce believes the vertical rules have worked well  but need adaptation, in particular to  a  digital  environment,  in  which  consumers  interact  with  businesses  through  online,  offline and omnichannel options;
•  EuroCommerce reiterates the importance for retailers and wholesalers to set their own prices freely  and welcomes the Commission’s continued strong stance against any  kind  of  direct  or indirect resale price maintenance, including minimum advertising prices that legally or functionally limit the freedom of retailers and wholesalers to set prices;  
•  EuroCommerce notes the growing development of dual distribution setups by suppliers, who are becoming direct competitors to their distribution networks and welcomes the proposal to clarify provisions on exchange of information in such circumstances;
•  vertical restraints  which damage  the  integrity of the single market, including territorial supply restrictions, should be considered hardcore restrictions and not benefit from any exemption;  
•  EuroCommerce is concerned that some of the revised rules on selective and exclusive distribution systems allow an unjustified use of such systems to the detriment of consumers and the integrity of the single market;  
•  EuroCommerce  emphasises  the  importance  of  supporting  offline  sales  efforts;  however  is concerned about possible unintended effects of the proposals on dual pricing;
•  EuroCommerce reiterates the importance of marketplaces in today’s economy and their use by consumers and warns against allowing unjustified restrictions on their use and possible detrimental  impact  in  particular  on  SMEs;  EuroCommerce  questions  the  reasons  to  exclude online marketplaces with a hybrid role from the VBER, which will lead to greater legal uncertainty for both the marketplaces and their business users.

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